The Importance of Workplace Environment

What are the key workplace factors that help determine an employee's level of performance in the workplace?

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Workplace Environment and Employee Performance

An employee's workplace environment is a key determinant of the quality of their work and their level of productivity. How well the workplace engages an employee impacts their desire to learn skills and their level of motivation to perform. Skills and motivation level then influences an employee's:

  • error rate
  • output rate
  • level of innovation
  • collaboration with others
  • absenteeism, and
  • length of service.

(See the results of research by Towers Perrin, BlessingWhite and Gallup Consulting.)

The most important of these workplace environment factors that either lead to engagement or disengagement are shown in the following diagram. You can use an engagement survey from a reputable employee survey company to measure how motivated and satisfied your employees are with their day to day responsibilities. A close consideration of each of these factors is also very useful in ensuring that employees apply the skills they learn during training programs once they return to their workplace. Tending to the structural and interpersonal aspects of each of these factors enables employees to apply the required skills in a consistent and habitual way.

Figure 1 – Workplace factors affecting employee performance

Diagram of Workplace factors affecting employee performance

Workplace Performance Factors – A Short Guide

What does each of these nine key factors mean? The following is a brief explanation of each factor.

  • Goal-setting

    Employees are involved in setting meaningful goals and performance measures for their work. This can be done informally between the employee and their immediate supervisor or as part of an organization's formal performance management process. The key here is that each employee is actively engaged in the goal-setting process and takes ownership of the final agreed goals and measures.

  • Performance feedback

    Information on how the employee is performing is fed back regularly to employees. This consists of both positive feedback on what the employee is doing right as well as feedback on what requires improvement. The feedback is objective and delivered with the appropriate interpersonal and conflict resolution skills and can be a mix of both informal feedback and feedback delivered as part of a formal performance management cycle.

  • Role congruity

    The role that the employee is required to perform is consistent with their expectations on joining the organization and any subsequent training. The organization's role expectations are typically reflected in formal documents, such as Job Descriptions and Role Specifications. These expectations are consistent with tasks allocated by the employee's immediate supervisor.

  • Defined processes

    The organization constrains the variability of how work is actually performed through documenting processes and communicating such expectations to employees. The organization verifies on a regular or random basis that the work is actually performed in the way required.

  • Workplace incentives

    The organization has determined what motivates its employees and has set up formal and informal structures for rewarding employees that behave in the way required. Rewards may consist of a mix of internal rewards, such as challenging assignments, and external rewards, such as higher compensation and peer recognition.

  • Supervisor support

    Immediate supervisors act as advocates for employees, gathering and distributing the resources needed by employees in order for them to be able to do a good job and providing positive encouragement for a job well done. Supervisors display the interpersonal skills required to engage employees and enhance their self-confidence.

  • Mentoring/coaching

    Skilled and respected people are available to employees to help them perform better in their current role and to assist them develop further into a future role. Mentors and coaches may be internal to an organization or external. Either way, they possess the necessary facilitation skills to assist employees develop and apply new sills.

  • Opportunity to apply

    Time and material resources are available to employees, enabling them to perform to the best of their ability. Individual workloads and organizational systems and processes do not hinder employees from applying established skills or from practicing newly learned skills.

  • Job aids

    The work environment is set up so that templates, guides, models, checklists and other such workplace aids are readily available to help minimize error rates and customer dissatisfaction.

Each of these nine factors is significant in its own right. Taken together, they form a powerful coalition for maximizing the motivation and productivity of your employees. What actions are you taking now to capitalize on these crucial factors for optimum performance in your workplace?

Expert View Author: AIMM MAITD

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