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Performance is a buzz word we often hear at work. When we talk about how well (or bad) we are doing at our job, we use performance as the gauge.  But what is performance? What does performance really entail and how do you know if you’re performing well? Let’s start with a simple definition.

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According to that, when we execute actions--daily routines at work, such as cleaning our desk, planning projects, meeting new clients, recording daily expenses and taking strategic decisions--do they all contribute to the performance of our job? Or is the sole act of writing thousands of lines of code every day - the most fundamental task in your job description if you are a developer - the mere basis of performance? Maybe we need a more elaborate definition.

There are three fundamental ingredients or factors that influence one’s performance. These are Ability (A), Motivation (M) and Environment (E). Let’s understand these factors through an equation. (I promise: this isn’t turning into a math lesson!)

P (Performance) = f (A * M * E)

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Performance is the function of Ability*Motivation*Environment. The higher the contribution of each of these factors, the higher the performance. Let’s tackle these factors a bit more:

Ability

One’s ability is a fundamental factor for performance. It’s composed of knowledge, skills, attitude and other behavioral traits that can make an impact on his or her fulfillment of a job. It can be said that it is a prerequisite for performance; without it, a person will not be able to function well or perhaps fail miserably. Ability is also the most dynamic pillar of performance. As technology continue to advance, people learn more and acquire new knowledge and skills that will help perform. But if one does not take the necessary steps to continuously upgrade their knowledge base and skill set, their ability will suffer and adversely impact their performance. They start to plateau and see only stagnant growth. What should you do when this happens? Commit to continuous competency development and stay relevant to the changing work environment.

Motivation

Motivation also plays a huge role in successful performance. Without it, your commitment to finish a task will slowly diminish. Motivation is the inner force that drives us to do things. By design, the job itself should provide freedom to work and opportunity to apply a variety of skills and it should connect us to a larger purpose. HR professionals should focus on designing jobs that will provide motivation for people to perform.  When individuals are driven by autonomy, mastery & purpose, they are intrinsically motivated to perform. Naturally not all human beings are intrinsically motivated. Some are driven by external factors, such as compensation, rewards, recognition, perks etc.

Environment

Things such as our work place, its infrastructure, process, policies, culture, organizational structure, leadership & management styles, colleagues, communication, government, laws & regulations, market conditions & so many other tangible & intangible factors, have direct or indirect impact on performance. Ideally, a conducive environment for performance includes having an open culture, flat hierarchy, simple processes, few strict policies, clear & transparent communication, trust, self-managed teams, inspiring & inclusive leadership styles, flexibility and fun.

What happens when one factor is absent in the performance of a task? Diminished performance.

Performance Blog

If an individual demonstrates ideal behaviors but lacks in solid results, then the environment is an issue. If results and behaviors are missing, then motivation and environment need to be addressed. Ideally competencies are evaluated at the time of selection. Motivation encourages hard work even if the environment is not necessarily conducive.

In a nutshell, ability, environment and motivation are the key ingredients for successful performance results. If any one of these ingredients is missing or less nurtured, performance may be compromised.

Considering the significance of these ingredients, it is strongly advised that individuals and organizations work together on identifying which factors contribute to their performance and proactively find ways to nurture them.