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Posted: April 22, 2013

Conditions of job success—up close

Is it more dependent on employees -- or environment?

Timothy LaMacchio
(Editor's note: This is the second of three parts. Read Part One.)

Looking at the six conditions of job success you may notice a helpful distinction.

Condition #1: Clear Management Expectations: Employees receive clear management expectations and directions that are based upon established outcomes or goals.

Condition #2: Usable Performance Feedback: Employees receive usable feedback indicating progress, or lack of progress, toward meeting their manager’s expectations.

Condition #3: Supporting Resources: The resources employees need to meet their manager’s expectations are available, easy to access, and simple to use.

Condition #4: Aligned Incentives:The everyday incentives and consequences employee encounter encourages the work that meets their manager’s expectations. 

Condition #5: Job Knowledge and Skills: Employees have the knowledge and skills needed to meet their manager’s expectations.

Condition #6: Natural Capabilities: Employees have the natural capabilities and aptitude needed to meet their manager’s expectations.

What difference do you notice?

Some of the six conditions --- “influencers” of performance --- are found in the systems, structures, and processes of the organization.  Other conditions are found in employees or people.

Condition 1 through Condition 4  

The first four “influencers” of job success --- management expectations, performance feedback, supporting resources, and aligned incentives --- are part of the work environment.  External to the employee they influence job success from the outside. Changing these environmental conditions require changing how teams are managed and work is done.

Condition 5 and Condition 6

The second two “influencers” of job success --- knowledge, skills, and capabilities --- reside inside the employee.  They are individual and internal.  Employees bring knowledge, skills, and capabilities to the job.  When employees leave the knowledge, skills, and capabilities also leave --- and must be replaced.

Changing these internal conditions requires changing people.

When working to change these conditions, this distinction --- between changing the environment and changing people --- becomes especially relevant.

Lower Cost and Greater Impact

When building these conditions --- creating the support and structure you or your team needs for job success --- two considerations are helpful:

  1. Building the environmental conditions --- clear expectations, usable feedback, needed resources, and performance-encouraging incentives --- is less costly than providing employees new knowledge, skills, and capabilities. 
  2. Building the environmental conditions has a greater impact on performance than providing employees new knowledge, skills, and capabilities. 

These considerations are reflected in a common observation --- both personally and professionally.  People rarely change.  Even heart attack patients faced with the options of changing their lifestyle or an early death rarely make the necessary changes.

Simply put --- it is easier to change an environment than to change people.

This does not mean employee knowledge, skills, and capabilities can be ignored or minimized.  They are essential to job success.  However when seeking performance solutions remember:

  1. The high direct and indirect cost of training --- the solution for providing knowledge, skills, and capabilities.
  2. The low retention of knowledge and skills provided in training.
  3. Management expectations must be established before considering the knowledge, skill, and capabilities employees need for job success.
  4. Training is the aspirin of the business place --- overused as a solution to performance problems and opportunities.

Success Conditions Most Often Lacking

The lower cost and greater impact of environmental conditions to improve job performance is a compelling argument. There is more, however.

By going to the source --- those actually doing the work --- we receive a valuable education.  Professionals consistently cite management expectations, usable feedback about progress and the resources supporting their daily work as lacking in their job. They believe improvements in these three environmental conditions would enable them to be more successful.

Lower cost.  Higher impact.  Greater need.  This is good news to anyone wanting to improve performance.  

With the performance-influencing conditions as a guide, improving performance is no longer a mystery.  Your efforts can target what is most needed and creates the greatest impact --- environmental conditions.  Whether improving your personal performance or your team’s performance --- change the environment first, not people. 

Timothy LaMacchio is the owner of www.GoToManagers.com. A Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, he works with organizations to connect everyday “desk-level” work to strategic business goals. Tim solves a problems root cause --- not just the symptoms.  His practical solutions develop people and the environment people need to perform. Tim's work is about providing new knowledge and skills and achieving business results. Contact Timothy at tel@GoToManagers.com or 303.917.5775

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Great distinction. This helps me know where to focus my efforts. Environment or people? By Mark Jamison on 2013 04 22
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