Why Employees in Some Companies Go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

For years, there has been a lot of talk about how employee engagement drives discretionary effort and makes employees go the extra mile in the workplace. But what if this statement is a bit misleading? What if engagement isn’t the only factor?

Today, we’re going to dispel a myth about what elements contribute to employees’ desire to do more than is required, stay motivated, and innovate.

Employee performance, engagement, discretionary effort: Is there a connection?

Before making any conclusions as to what encourages employees to go above and beyond the call of duty, we need to define employee performance, employee engagement, and discretionary effort to make things clear.

Discretionary Effort

In the broadest term, an engaged employee is the one who’s fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and as such takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation, its values and interests.

According to the Business Dictionary, employee performance can be defined as the job-related activities expected of a worker and how well those activities were executed.

A clear description of discretionary effort is given by Marcel Schwantes, founder of Leadership from the Core, who states that it’s the difference between the level of effort, creativity, and problem-solving one is capable of bringing to a task, versus the minimum effort required to just get by or make do, and still receive a paycheck.

These definitions give us the understanding that discretionary effort is the result of engagement and performance working together. However, being simply engaged doesn’t mean doing better. Engaged employees with skill gaps and outdated knowledge won’t be able to make a difference.

When talking about how to create high-performing teams that are motivated and productive, the majority of thought leaders say it comes down to effective management. In other words, it’s about how effectively and quickly you can help employees tackle their performance issues. Well-managed employees can act for the benefit of a company and put as much effort and creativity as possible to complete job-related tasks.

Learning tools and effective management lead to a productive workplace culture

Performance issues appear due to both a lack of necessary tools and poor management practices. A high-performing culture occurs when employees operate optimally. To achieve this, your company needs to adopt an effective management strategy and deploy technologies that improve employee experience and performance.

Jacob Morgan, a keynote speaker on the Future of Work, Employee Experience and Leadership, believes that when a company takes care of its people and invests in their experiences – a combination of culture, technology, and physical space – it unlocks people’s potential and leads to an outstanding customer experience.

Let’s take a closer look at how an effective management strategy can contribute to employees’ experiences and create a productive workplace culture.

Components of an effective management strategy

  • Psychologically safe environment

When your employees are stressed, they regularly encounter performance issues. The goal of any manager is to make sure that employees don’t have to deal with harassment, that they can suggest ideas, express their opinions, and question superiors’ decisions without the fear of losing their jobs.

Tesco can serve as a great example of how the freedom to suggest ideas can lead to discretionary effort and greatly contribute to a company’s success.

A check-out operator suggested to a visiting board director the idea of cash back at the check-out. Within a year, Tesco had saved millions by reducing the amount of cash that was sent to the banks, reducing costs whilst simultaneously enhancing the customer experience.

As you can see, psychological safety in the workplace can make a great difference when it comes to innovations and companies’ progress.

  • Autonomy powered by trust

Employee autonomy is tightly interconnected with psychological safety. In order to grant some freedom to employees, managers should build relationships based on trust, transparency, and openness.

Karla Brandau, CEO at the Workplace Power Institute, calls such relationships authentic contribution: “You give great freedom to the employee and permit the employee to work in a state of intrapreneurship. You give them opportunities to self-actualize as they freely give back authentic contributions and treat the business as if it were their own.” And it makes sense. When people feel like they can make a meaningful difference and feel accountability, they strive to do more than required.

Netflix’s management strategy is all about context, not control, creating the right environment that inspires people, one that provides direction and transparency, as opposed to top-down decision making, approval processes and committees.

Streamlined communication in your company can facilitate the process of building relationships that foster trust and transparency, as well as allow for autonomy.

  • Growth and development opportunities

Since the future requires companies to get ready for more fluid job roles, ongoing professional development is a must. First of all, having upskilled employees with deep expertise in their field future-proofs organizations from any kind of business disruption and maintains their competitive ability. Secondly, continuous learning opportunities retain and attract top talent.

The important thing to note here is that highly-skilled employees will only be efficient having all the necessary tools and resources on their hands. If they don’t have the needed tools to get the job done, then how can they be expected go above and beyond? That’s where learning experience platforms (LXP) come into play.

By prescribing personalized learning journeys, delivering on-demand feedback, tracking employees’ progress, and offering easily accessible training content, you can detect and get rid of individual’s performance issues right on time. This, in turn, will help your employees go the extra mile in doing their job.

Upon building an effective management strategy in your company and fixing poor performance, you’ll be able to foster a caring and productive workplace that encourages employees to do their best and bring innovations.

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If you’re struggling to fix poor performance in the workplace, request a free demo and talk to our experts to see how you can drive your employees’ discretionary effort in practice.