High Performance Work Practices

In their recent workforce assessment report LANTRA identify a list of 16 High Performance Work Practices.

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If you improve management you will achieve large increases in productivity and output. Research by McKinsey & Company and the Centre for Economic Performance showed that a single percentage improvement in management practice delivers the same growth as 25% more labour or a 65% more capital.  However, many small businesses don’t recognise that their management processes are poor and so miss out on potential gains.

The Skills for Business Network Employer Survey identifies 16 ‘high performance’ work practices. In the UK economy as a whole, 30% of businesses adopt more than 10 of these; but in the horticultural sector it’s a mere 7%.

However only 41% of UK companies employing 5-24 employees manage to adopt 10 or more of these
practices and many of them are automatically included in the Investors in People approach. We think it’s worthwhile to move in this direction.

To learn more about building a workforce that uses these practices order our book Growing Jobs. This contains some guidelines on HR best practice, some case studies and a review of High Performance Work Practices. This guide was commissioned by SEEDA for the Horticultural industry but its recommendations have a much wider practical use. It costs £11.99 including post and packing.

High Performance Work Practices Horti UK  

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Work shadowing 86% 92%
Training in last 12 months 47% 65%
Conducted staff appraisals 44% 75%
Training needs assessments 37% 61%
Business plan 35% 61%
Formally assess performance 33% 59%
Employee consultation 32% 47%
Individual PRP 29% 39%
Training plan 27% 48%
Performance bonuses 22% 41%
Flexible benefits 21% 32%
Training budget 17% 36%
Accredited IiP 8% 19%
Consults with trade unions 6% 15%
Accredited ISO 9000 4% 13%
Creates project teams 2% 15%
At least 10 HPWPs adopted 7% 30%

Many companies who supply multiples or Government supply chains are already exposed to these ideas. Nevertheless, according to the LANTRA workforce report, only a very small number of land-based industries achieve 10 or more of these.

The four areas that we think make the most difference in performance are

  1. A good induction process which makes clear to the new recruit exactly what’s required.
  2. Good supervisory training which allows item 1 to be successfully monitored.
  3. Implementing the principles of Investors in People – if not actually signing up for it.
  4. Taking part in an externally audited quality assurance programme – whether this be ISO 9000, ISO14000 or industry accreditation schemes such as LEAF or the Soil Association.

Companies that are serious about business growth have to deal with the transition from a craft-based, owner manager led business to a structure with more formality.

Successfully taking part in these four HR activities will help ensure that the company has the necessary combination of rigour and flexibility to do business effectively in the 21st Century.

It all begins at interview. Several interviewees said the killer question – for both British and Eastern European Staff – is why do you want to work here.  Getting a “business-like” answer was the most important indicator of people who would do well. Money, to get on, to get established were all good answers. Earn some cash for a holiday or fill in a few hours would include them out.

A good induction process that sets expectations quite precisely is critical. Justin Coleman of the Leckford estate told us that he was able to get turnover in the mushroom farm down from 60% pa to 2% pa largely by this approach.

Recruits were given a supervisor to work with them and a programme to specify what they should be capable of doing by the end of the first week and first month. It was made clear that if they were behind schedule their goals would be revisited and if these weren’t met eventually, then they would have to leave.

A similar approach is adopted in other companies interviewing for temporary peak workers.

James Davies of HOPS remarked that he had noticed a marked improvement in HR practice in the industry during 2009 following a scare during 2008 when it looked as if many migrant workers were returning home. This put pressure on the less good employers as many of the migrant workers – particularly the SAWS students –  talk to each other via social media and the employer’s reputation becomes critical. Some of the least good employers apparently struggled to find staff.

 

Why is the IiP Model so Powerful?

 

This approach

  1. Puts training needs into the business plan
  2. Specifies what the business benefits are
  3. Reviews how far this was achieved.

It integrates with a basic appraisal system which sets goals and learning objectives with each staff member

It sees a business as a dynamic entity, so over time the business will change under the influence of new market opportunities.

It makes the knowledge base and skill sets needed to keep the business ahead of the pack explicit.

This means being pro-active about acquiring the knowledge and skills fast enough. And it means monitoring and communicating progress about development of both staff and managers.

There’s an individual by individual assessment of what’s needed to do the job and what will be likely for the next set of changes.

Mechanisms for acquiring the knowledge – distance learning, short courses, on the job training – need to be identified and monitored against clear business objectives. At the end of the year it’s reviewed and the cycle starts over.

This delivers engagement and motivation of staff and supervisors via appraisals and review of performance. It ensures company policies and progress against them are common knowledge in the organisation.

Skills deliver an 8% productivity difference between well-performing and poorly performing organisations. DTI research suggests that 3 core principles are needed for training to deliver results to the business.

  1. Senior management lead the process and develop a strong supporting culture
  2. Appropriate people management policies are consistently and effectively applied
  3. High performance organisational practices are clearly linked to organisational objectives and business goals.

Companies who adopt this approach definitely seem to benefit.

To learn more about building a workforce that uses these practices order our book Growing Jobs. This contains some guidelines on HR best practice, some case studies and a review of High Performance Work Practices. This guide was commissioned by SEEDA for the Horticultural industry but its recommendations have a much wider practical use. It costs £11.99 including post and packing.

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