Building an Organization's Performance Culture

For leaders tasked with developing a performance culture in response to the Human Capital Framework (HCF) released by The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in April, I suspect agencies are seeking answers to the questions like: Where do we start and how do we interpret the framework? If you are uncertain with where to start, how to make it relevant to your agency, or how to execute let’s explore possible immediate steps to support your existing performance culture or begin to shift your existing culture to one of performance.

The purpose of the HCF is to aid agencies as they implement talent management strategies in response to the change in Administration and subsequent budgetary and management policy adjustments. OPM has structured the framework across “four open systems”, one of which is the Performance Culture System. OPM defines Performance Culture as: A system that engages, develops, and inspires a diverse, high-performing workforce by creating, implementing, and maintaining effective performance management strategies, practices, and activities that support mission objectives.”

So what is meant by a Performance Culture?

It’s the practice of creating new and reinforcing existing systems that lead to improved organizational performance. It is the mindful and intentional practice that sustains organizational growth and evolution.

A performance culture is not established by simply having a performance management practice. It’s deeper than a system(s). A performance culture is the shared understanding by members about the value and importance of individual, team and organizational learning.

How is a Performance Culture created?

First, evaluate existing systems to assess effectiveness and value. While culture goes beyond the systems, the systems must be effectively functioning and stable to enable employees to effectively benefit from the system.

Second, determine if the systems and resources are relevant and aligned. Many organizations have systems or resources that no longer support the mission and priorities of the organization. Evaluate your development initiatives, ask if they are supporting the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for today and tomorrow’s workforce.

What can leaders start doing?

In Organizational Culture and Leadership, author Edgar Schein, identifies multiple strategies leaders can practice to embed and transmit culture. Here are several techniques to kickstart your efforts:

What leaders pay attention to, measure, and control on a regular basis

According to Schein, “the most powerful mechanism … for communicating what [leaders] believe in or care about is what they systematically pay attention to.” Put another way, employees pay attention to what leaders say and do. Using the HCF as a guide, identify organizational priority areas of focus when developing your performance culture.

Share the story effectively and often. Ongoing communication about the purpose and importance of establishing a performance culture. Why is a performance culture important to the organization? How does a performance culture benefit individuals? According to OPM, a performance culture refers to an agency’s “holistic approach” to performance.

Learn more about our Organizational Culture Alignment solutions and how we can help align the values and capabilities of your organization’s requirements for future success.

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