The formulas, tricks and trade secrets of Private Equity

Workplace Performance

Sample Chapter

This is Take 2 of my last post, Salary versus performance. I’ve had a rethink about the topic, or more specifically, about workplace performance. Let’s start with a few thoughts:

What does it mean to work at capacity?

Capability and capacity relate to more than just potential physical energy. For example, I could apply 100% of my physical energy to lifting tiles onto a roof, and by day’s end, move 500 of them. Or, I could use 10% of my mental energy and 10% of my physical energy to move 5000 tiles by hiring a conveyor belt (hypothetically speaking). The combination of mental and physical energy can move mountains.

How productive do you think you are?

I find that people are rarely honest with themselves about this question. Ask yourself how productive you are (in percentage terms of mental and physical capacity on an average day) and then ask yourself again. Remember, at 100% capacity you’ll be moving figurative mountains. So, imagine the mountain you’re capable of moving and compare that to how productive you think you are. Then, once you know you’re being honest with yourself, compare that to the productivity of your team and your expectations of your team.

How does salary affect workplace productivity and output?

In my last post, I lamented that managers don’t realise how unproductive underpaid people can be. However, this is only an issue when employees aren’t fully engaged (and inspired and challenged and appreciated). The problem is, I think most employees feel somewhat disengaged most of the time. So, when they cross a certain level of disengagement (even if only for a day), salary becomes an issue very quickly. Then once it does come up, it generally remains an issue until rectified, meaning workplace performance is low.

My suggestion isn’t to grant six-figure bonuses; I think you can get much more value from being genuinely fair. Keep an eye on market rates and adjust your employees’ salaries without them having to ask. The average employee doesn’t expect you to be proactive with pay rises, so this token gesture can actually make a tangible difference to productivity, loyalty and even engagement.

But, what does that really have to do with productivity?

You’re hedging your bets. In the rare (likely) case you don’t provide a fully engaging environment for your employees, at least they’ll know they’re being paid fairly. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll look to themselves to find the reasons for their disengagement. It means one less issue, a little more trust and a lot of potential upside.

Okay, protection is in place, but what about increasing workplace performance?

This question about workplace performance is like asking “how do I lead a team?”… while there is so much subjectivity involved (borne by human emotion and irrationality), the underlying solution is still the same: communication. Don’t just sit their like a typical scheming, self-interested, self-conscious manager, ask your people what they want. “What do you need to be fully engaged, to think of the business like your own, to get the most out of yourself, to gush about your position to your friends, to think of new ideas when walking your dog, to figuratively move mountains; what do you need?”

If they look at you with contempt and put up a stone wall, give it a day to settle and try again. And, if you still get those looks tomorrow, fire them. You’ll be doing both of you a world of good.

Image: What on Earth to do? firm

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