Improving employee performance: little and often key to long-term results

Improving athlete performanceAs many an athlete knows the key to improving your performance is to continually make small improvements in your training and practice, your equipment or the ability to manage the sport-work-life balance.

“Small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results”

In the world of elite sport this is known as ‘marginal gains,’ those small improvements necessary to get an athlete onto the podium, rather than watching the ceremony after coming in fourth.

At the elite level of sport, which p&mm sponsored Gabi Down* is a part of, the difference between success and failure is a very fine margin and that is why the focus is about continually making ‘marginal gains’. So what can business leaders learn from the techniques used by Olympic athletes?


Learning from the elite

It’s often difficult to make large gains or significant improvements in business, usually because most of the more obvious initiatives have already been deployed. Therefore if you want better businesses results and a more motivated workforce then you need to be making your own business ‘marginal gains’.

By continually making small improvements, a business can benefit greatly and the improvement process can be made more manageable.

‘Marginal gains’ can come from a number of sources, from the Board and leadership or directly from the workforce. But in order to find and implement these ‘marginal gains’ you need motivated and engaged employees. Which means you need to create a working environment where your employees feel genuinely involved in the business, an environment where your employees have a sense of collective responsibility and control over their working lives.


Generating ideas for ‘marginal gains’

Make marginal gainsEncourage the formation of problem solving groups. These groups should be made up of employees from diverse areas of the business, they can be tasked with solving problems such as how to get more new customers, how to cut costs in certain business areas or how to track competitor activity more efficiently.

Did you know that coaches of elite athletes often work together, even if they’re not from the same sporting discipline? This is so they can share ideas and knowledge that can improve an athlete’s performance. Bringing in coaches from other disciplines can provide a fresh perspective and ideas that coaches immersed in that discipline might not of thought of.


Reward and recognition schemes

Reward and recognition is vital to developing a fully engaged workforce, and its value to employees increases in tough economic times.

Improving employee performanceThe basic concept of a reward and recognition scheme is to highlight those employees who have made a significant contribution, delivered beyond expectations or shown extra effort. There are a number of ways to implement such a scheme. However, first of all you must decide what your business objectives are and what you want to achieve. Do you want to recognise and reward employees who are delivering great customer service, come up with ideas that can be implemented to improve your internal processes or find a new way to target a particular niche of potential customers?

You should also carefully consider the rewards available, as each employee may have a different motivation. Spend some time investigating flexible schemes that offer a range of rewards that employees can choose from.

When you meet Gabi you can see how engaged she is in her training. This is because she is motivated by the potential for a medal in Rio in 2016, her reward for the hours of dedicated training.

So if your business wants staggering long-term results, take a look at the practices of elite athletes and their coaches and see how you can translate them into actions within your business.


*Gabi Down, who is sponsored by p&mm, is currently ranked as the No 1 female in the UK and she has already represented Great Britain at last summers’ Paralympic games in London. She now has her sights set firmly on achieving great things in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Tell me more >>


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.

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