In the previous Blogs, we’ve talked about Workplace Management organisations considering themselves as businesses within businesses. Here, we’re going to explore what Performance Management looks like as a tool to understand, manage and improve workplace performance.
In our last blog on Strategic Management we talked about designing ‘workplace experiences’. We said a workplace experience was a multi-faceted, multi-sensory, second by second immersion that leaves an impression in the mind of the workplace ‘consumer’ and delivers on a range of ‘missions’. That the experience includes technology and the social experience too. And of course, it covers the virtual experience too.
So once that experience has been consciously designed to deliver against a variety of missions, (e.g. improving productivity, improving social interaction across silo’s, being tuned to reflect organisational personality, attract and inspire future and current workers etc…) as we set out in the earlier Strategic Management blog, and the new experience has been implemented, Performance Management is about maintaining a constant understanding of how effectively and consistently that experience is being delivered.
Performance Management is also concerned with understanding the performance of the infrastructure, services, systems and environments that deliver it. The dimensions might include consumer perception, service performance, cycle times, utilisation, cost and efficiency.
So, Performance Management enables the measurement of the effectiveness of operational delivery and the implementation of quality improvement plans. And in a world where the most precious commodity is the brain of the Knowledge Worker, where the strategic outcome of higher productivity is of critical importance, Performance Management is a massively important issue and needs to be front of mind for the Workplace Manager.
Performance Management is the lynch pin of all the management capabilities in the Workplace Management Framework and as such also covers the measurement the effectiveness of all other management capabilities and their operational outcomes.
In the traditional Facilities Management world, performance was, and still is to a large degree, about managing the performance of a workplace viewed as a cost burden on the business; a drain upon the core business’s resources, a ‘necessary evil’, the ‘cost of doing business’. The management of performance was mostly about ‘control’ and ‘cost competitive procurement’ of outsourced services.
Workplace Management turns this on its head suggesting that the workplace should no longer be viewed as a ‘cost burden’ but instead as a valuable business tool designed to achieve and support a number of strategic business goals. It should be seen as an investment in the business and in its key resource, ‘people’. The focus upon “workplace experience” discussed in earlier blogs emphasizes the scale of the change. Knowledge workers with scarce skills are unlikely to be attracted and inspired by organisations that are non-competitive in terms of their investment in their development, job interest and workplace surroundings.
Whilst workplaces and their services can easily be measured in hard financial terms, workplace experience and knowledge worker productivity are much more difficult to unambiguously define and measure, but it is possible. Right now, though, most organisations are in danger of measuring the cost of everything and value of nothing and as a result constantly make cost driven decisions without any consideration for the impact on the experience and morale of the professional workforce.
So, what is required to measure how well we are succeeding in meeting the business goals, workplace experience and knowledge workers productivity?
Strategic Business Performance
A wide array of performance measures that support the strategic business goals may be considered.
The very nature of these measures is that they need to be holistic taking full account of peoples’ experience of IT, conditions of employment, team dynamics as well as the physical space and services that support that space. Indeed in a future where employment is largely involving knowledge workers, workplace experience will most likely extend beyond the core organisation to other locations and external suppliers of knowledge.
Performance Management should also help the Workplace management function understand the overall performance of the experience for different segments or clusters of people in the organisation. Take for example a group of 100 people on the 20th floor of a building, that needs a largely distraction free work environment to support their work. Imagine these people coming in during the morning and having to spend 10 minutes waiting for lifts because the capacity isn’t great enough to cope with peaks, and finding their space becoming more intensely used, and on top a group has been moved adjacent to them that is noisy creating distraction. As a result of this heavy loading the cooling systems are not able to keep the temperature down and the heat is rising. Furthermore, the wireless network and IT response times are slowing. Their nearest coffee bar is the 12th floor and when they get there they queue for 10 minutes only to find that their favourite coffee has run out. They normally go to the gym at times that avoids busy times to find some of the equipment isn’t working or the Personal Trainer is off sick. Their perception of their experience is governed by their experience of lots of separate experiences that together create their overall perception, which in this case says ‘nobody cares’.
It’s also possible of course that different groups on different floors with different work and life needs may not be experiencing the workplace in this same way. What become clear when you think of the workplace experience in this way is that you could have all your experiences operating at a 90% satisfaction rating and still, the overall experience as perceived by certain groups to be poor.
So we need measurements that give us a good understanding of how the overall, end to end workplace experience is working for different clusters of people and in an ideal world these measurements need to allow us to take actions to proactively ensure that ‘experience failure’ is never felt by a workplace consumer. This means we need to be defining measurements that help us understand how the different facets are performing and be able to link them back to specific workplace ‘consumer’ clusters. We need easy to understand analytics and be able to slice and dice data from multiple sources with ease so we can really see what’s going on.
Measuring Knowledge Worker’s Productivity
Whilst there is no single accepted measure that has proven reliable to measure the productivity of knowledge workers, we are clear on the factors that give rise to it.
In 2014, in collaboration with The Centre for Evidence Based Management (CEBMa) we undertook a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) study, using the most credible academic databases around the world, to identify the factors most correlated with the productivity of knowledge based communities. The research revealed 6 Factors set out in the diagram below. Whilst we can’t measure Knowledge Worker productivity, we can measure the degree to which these 6 factors exist within and across teams and communities.
These Factors may be used as “proxy” measures to aid the improvements in knowledge workers productivity. To this end, AWA has created assessment tools that can be used to help organisations determine their strengths and weaknesses and identify what changes are needed.
So as you’ll have gleaned from this Blog, we see Performance Management in the modern Workplace Management organisation as a critical capability, requiring deep thought, new tools and philosophies. We need to move away from purely cost and efficiency driven measurements to ‘experience orientated’ measures. What gets measured gets managed, they say. So once we have ‘experience orientated’ measures we can start the process of focusing systems, suppliers and the whole organisation on really managing and enhancing the workplace experience.