The Placeholder, The Pro and The Producer:
Progressions in Worker Performance
Nothing sets the pace of organizational success like the productivity and performance of its employees. There are several interventions which can be employed to enhance the quality and quantity of work produced by a company’s workforce, but before rolling out such interventions, it is important to first identify which tactics would work most optimally on which individuals. It has been said that a happy employee is a productive employee, but I submit different employs who are at different levels of professional development require different interventions to bring them to that happy, fulfilled and therefore productive state. Some may require structure, guidance and direction, while others would perform much better with less oversite. Tailoring your management style specifically to the performance level of the employee will go far in supporting and improving their overall performance. This will bring about the best result for the employee and the organization as a whole. Here are three levels of worker performance and how they can advance or hinder organizational goals.
Most new employees will identify with the “Placeholder”. The Placeholder’s mantra is, “Hot damn, I have a job!!” The Placeholder values employment as a means to get what they want in the world. The job pays the bills and allows them to acquire material things and take care of their family. The Placeholder will follow the rules and fulfill their work requirements because of the external reward of a paycheck. They come to work, do their job, and go home. The advantages of having placeholders in the workplace are few. Sure every organization needs faces to fill positions and Placeholders do that, but they are basically interchangeable with any other face, and they will be. As soon as a Placeholder finds another employer offering more of that external reward, money, they will be gone and the company will have to find another face to fill the position. What’s worse is the Placeholder has no desire to progress in the company or contribute anything new, so their value to the company is relatively small, and the relationship is merely transactional. You do work for me, I give you money. The employee’s development and the company’s ROI are both fairly flat. Hopefully most employees who may begin as Placeholders, will progress to the next level of employee performance, the Pro.
It will take a variable amount of time for an employee to evolve from a Placeholder to a Pro, but it is in the best interest of both the employee and the organization to get every employee to this level. A Pro still appreciates the fact that they have a job, but now what they do isn’t merely a job to them, it has become a career. To the Pro, there are internal as well as external rewards derived from what they do for their employer. The Pro sees their workplace as an environment in which they are valued for the talents and skills they possess. They desire to use and continually develop these skills and talents to promote and grow within the organization. The Pro receives intellectual stimulation, a feeling of belonging, and a creative outlet from their employer. They turn these internal rewards into enhanced productivity and performance which benefits the employer. The employer recognizes the increased performance and rewards the employee with more intellectual and creative stimulation which keeps the employee thriving and growing. This continues so that the investments made by both the employer and the employee return benefits to each resulting in a stronger more relevant company and a more productive and engaged workforce. Any organization would do well to nurture and develop most of their employees to the level of the Pro where performance is in high gear, but there is one more level of performance to discuss. Many Pro’s will grow into Producers, and Producers become the moving force of the organization. It is important to identify and groom the Producers to succeed high ranking officers in the company as those officers leave the company due to retirement.
Not all workers will rise to the level of Producer. For the Producer, work is not a job, not a career, but a calling. Their mantra is, “I was meant to do this work and I have something unique to offer.” Producers are operating on all cylinders and as the title suggests, they produce for the company. Not merely followers of policy and procedure, Producers are capable of developing new policies and new ways of accomplishing tasks to more efficiently reach company goals. They will innovate and create new strategies and projects to make the organization more relevant and effective. The company remains strong by having a large number of Pros in their ranks, but the company needs Producers to move forward into uncharted territory. The Producers of today are the CEO’s and the Administrators of tomorrow and if a company’s Producers are not actively being groomed for succession, this is definitely something the company should be doing.
Strong organizations have Placeholders, Pros, and Producers. It is important to nurture and support workers to continually elevate their level of productivity and performance. To do this, a manager needs to know when to provide close guidance and direction, and when to release some control and allow the employee to have some autonomy. Properly managing the workforce to set and achieve high performance standards is the key to running a flourishing and successful business.