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What is high performance working?

Is it simply a new and exciting HR buzz phrase which will eventually fade over time? Or is it something worth taking note of? And if so, what does it really boil down to?

High performance working (HPW) is about creating a culture where there is transparency, trust and open lines of communication for all. It is about eroding the traditional hierarchical structure which many organisations still operate under, and instead creating a flatter structure where employees are happy, engaged, motivated and share and understand the vision of the organisation.

The former UK Commission for Employment and Skills defined HPW as ‘a general approach to managing organisations that aims to stimulate more effective employee involvement and commitment in order to achieve high levels of performance’. HPW is fundamentally a series of processes, practices and policies which can be put into place, and when integrated together can result in improved performance of employees.

It is widely accepted that HPW practices fall within three broad areas. These are:

  • High employee involvement.
  • Human resource practices.
  • Reward and commitment practices.

HPW practices are often most effective when used in ‘bundles’. This means organisations have the freedom to pick and choose the practices which best fit with their needs, strategies and overall objectives.

Research into the effectiveness of HPW practices indicate that as much as a 20-40% increase in productivity can be seen in organisations that adopt HPW practices compared to those that do not.

Other findings suggest that the implementation and uptake of HPW practices within an organisation positively correlates with the rate of organisational growth, increased organisational profitability, higher job satisfaction, lower staff turnover and greater innovation and creativity within the workplace.

So, how do organisations go about adopting a high performance working culture?

Below are six key practices Buzzacott HR Consultancy recommends can be used as a basis to introduce HPW practices into your organisation:

  1. Allowing employees’ autonomy over their work styles, i.e. a decentralised structure and reinforcement of self-management.
  2. Sharing information with employees, i.e. regular communications detailing organisational changes so that employees feel informed and consulted.
  3. Enforcing a people-focused culture, i.e. recognition and reward of hard work and honesty.
  4. Adopting family friendly policies, i.e. flexible working.
  5. Emphasising learning and development, i.e. providing employees with opportunities to learn new skills and enhance the skills they already have.
  6. Introducing employee support systems and people management processes, i.e. regular appraisals and multi-source feedback.

There will come a point with COVID-19 when organisations can start to move from crisis management mode to a space where they can begin to prepare to return to some sort of normality, or new normality. This represents a great opportunity to reflect upon this period of enforced social isolation. Which of the six practical recommendations above have you introduced into your organisation and what practices do you need to keep/adapt to ensure that for the road ahead? Whatever that may look like, you should implement and maintain HPW practices within your organisation. 

Our core mission as an HR Consultancy is to help improve businesses through their people. For more information, get in touch. 


This article was last updated on 17 April 2020.

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