Business Execution: The Employee Factors You Need to Meet Your Goals

By Steven T. Hunt

Business execution is about having the employees required to support a company’s strategy and making sure they are doing what the company needs them to do to achieve its strategic goals.

Companies increase business execution capability through ensuring the right people are doing the right things in the right way to support the company’s strategic objectives. Sustainable business execution requires doing this in a way that fosters the right development so employees acquire capabilities the company will need in the future.

The best way to improve business execution is to increase employee performance levels. Higher levels of job performance lead directly to stronger business execution overall. Increasing job performance ultimately depends on managing and influencing three things:

  • Goals that define the business outcomes that are supported by an employee’s job (e.g., achieving sales quotas, minimizing accidents, main- taining productivity levels, processing documents). Goals define the reason why a job exists. People are employed to do something. Goals clarify what they are employed to do.
  • Competencies describe behaviors employees are expected to display on the job. They include things like building relationships, planning and organizing, solving problems, and other activities that influence success or reflect important cultural values of the company. People often distin- guish goals from competencies using the concept of “what vs. how.” Goals define “what” a person is supposed to do in the job, and competencies describe “how” they are expected to do it.
  • Attributes are characteristics of employees that are associated with job success. They include qualifications (e.g., job experience, education, certifications), aptitudes (e.g., personality and ability traits), and interests (e.g., career aspirations, salary preferences, work schedule expectations). Attributes define “who employees are” in terms of their knowledge, skills, and abilities. The attributes employees possess influence the competencies they display, which determine the goals they can achieve.

4 basic things you need to do

The relationship between attributes, competencies, and goals can be summed up as “Who you are (attributes) influences how you act (competencies) which determines what you achieve (goals).” Any effort to increase business execution must ultimately influence employee attributes, competencies and/or goals to be successful. All processes that effectively increase employee performance, engagement, retention, or any other variable associated with the behavior of individual employees will at some point focus on aligning, clarifying, or developing employee attributes, competencies, and goals.

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There are four basic ways to influence employee attributes, competencies, and goals: hire the right people, focus them on the right things, ensure they are doing things the right way, and foster the right development.

  1. Hire the right people. Staff positions with employees whose personal attributes match the competencies and goals associated with their jobs. This is the primary focus of recruiting, workforce planning, and certain aspects of succession management.
  2. Focus employees on the right things. Clearly identify and communicate the goals you want employees to achieve, and measure and reward employees against these goals. This is the focus of goal management.
  3. Make sure people are doing their job the right way. Define the competencies employees must display to achieve their job goals or support the desired company culture, and provide feedback and other resources that encourage them to demonstrate these competencies. This is usually the primary focus of performance management.
  4. Provide job experiences and resources that drive the right development. Create a work environment that helps employees develop the attributes that influence competency performance and goal accomplishment. Put people in jobs and assign them goals so they acquire experiences and other attributes needed for future job roles. This is the primary focus of career development and certain aspects of succession management.

Right people, right things, right way, and right development reflect the four fundamental aspects of an integrated talent management system. These activities roughly correspond with the “traditional” talent management processes of staffing, goal management, performance management and succession.

Excerpted from Elements of Successful Organizations: Achieving Strong Leadership, Smart Management, and an Engaged Workforce from the Workforce Institute at Kronos. Copyright 2011 by Kronos Incorporated. Reprinted with permission from The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated.

Dr. Steven Hunt is Senior Vice President of Customer Value at SuccessFactors/SAP Cloud HCM. A recognized expert on strategic human resources, he has helped implement HR systems positively affecting the workplace quality and performance of millions of employees working for hundreds of companies around the world. An active author and presenter, Dr. Hunt has written two books on strategic HR process design and deployment: “Commonsense talent management: using strategic human resources to increase company performance” (Wiley Press, 2014), and, “Hiring success: the art and science of staffing assessment and employee selection” (Wiley Press, 2007).