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How to Develop High Performance Work Systems (HPWS) to Increase Business Productivity

High performance work systems can help your business out-perform the competition. Learn how to develop HPWS to increase your business productivity today.

How to Develop High Performance Work Systems (HPWS) to Increase Business Productivity

Published on:

31 Mar 2022

Business productivity in the UK is in crisis. We’re among the lowest in the G7, with UK productivity a staggering 17% below the USA and France.


So often businesses look to new sales or marketing campaigns to resolve productivity issues and increase profitability.


Instead of looking for external solutions to internal problems, we think everyone needs to rethink business and make work better with a high performance work system (HPWS).

We’ll be looking briefly at what a HPWS is and how you can develop one for your business.


What is a HPWS and why Does Your Business Need one?

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in your business was working to their full capability?

That’s exactly what a High Performance Work System aims to achieve. It does this through adopting systems of work which improve performance. Nothing too groundbreaking, right?

The previous approaches to achieve this focused on machines and technology. For example, getting a new CMS to better analyse data or automating more processes to free up employees.


But despite these well-intentioned approaches, productivity didn’t increase. In fact, the further we’ve moved into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the technologies it can offer, the more productivity has struggled. It’s what’s known as the productivity paradox.


High performance work systems look to address this by taking a new approach — one that focuses on people. After all, people are at the heart of any business

HPWS achieve this by creating a culture of high performance for businesses. There is much discussion between academics, economists and other thought leaders around what the key characteristics of a high performance work culture is. But generally speaking, a high performance work culture will have most, if not all, of the following aspects:


  1. A company culture of learning and continuous improvement

  2. Strong leadership with emotional intelligence to foster this culture

  3. A HRM strategy utilised to promote a positive company culture

  4. Strong teams built through selective hiring processes

  5. Teams and departments have clear goals, strategically aligned with larger business goals

  6. Alternative working practices

  7. A flat, or flatter, organisational hierarchy to promote communication

  8. A clear vision for the business, which all employees share

  9. Employees who are motivated, engaged and committed to this vision


Research suggests businesses who adopt a high performance work system can see an increase in business productivity between 20% to 40%.


How to Develop a HPWS to Increase Business Productivity

To develop a HPWS you need to understand what your business goals are and what your current work systems are and how they aid those goals to assess where you can further develop a performance culture. Employees and leaders should be as involved as possible in the entire process for the best results.


Let’s take a look at the characteristics listed above to see how you can implement them in your own workplace.


A Company Culture of Learning and Continuous Improvement

Are you happy with the status quo or are you always striving towards the next development?

Many businesses fit into the former category. They assume the way things are done now is the way they should be done. This works for a time, until a more competitive company comes along that has developed further through continuous improvement.


They can offer better products, at more competitive prices and a better customer experience overall.


This is why it’s vital for high performance workplaces to foster a culture of continuous improvement across the business. All teams and departments should continually be looking for ways to improve the current way of doing things, allowing the business to remain competitive and innovative in the wider market.


Continuous improvement is intrinsically linked to learning. Employees who are unable or unwilling to learn are a recipe for disaster for businesses. Learning can empower staff, teach them new skills and change their way of thinking. Ultimately, all this knowledge gets pumped back into your business, allowing you to continuously improve.


Businesses can create a company culture of learning and continuous improvement by:

  1. Making open, transparent communication a priority

  2. Investing in staff development

  3. Setting and measuring goals and using this information to improve future goals

  4. Empowering employees by implementing ideas and encouraging a sense of ownership over ideas


Strong Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence

Our current command-and-control management style wreaks havoc on business productivity, ultimately creating low performance teams and a low productivity business.

Of course, management needs a certain amount of skills to run a team such as commercial awareness, organisational skills, the ability to delegate and so on. But so much more importantly, they need emotional intelligence.


Emotional intelligence is a simple concept at its core. It’s the ability to manage and understand your own emotions and also the emotions of those around you. High emotional intelligence notice and consider the impact of their own emotions and the emotions of others. Managers who possess a high level of emotional intelligence are more likely to stay calm and navigate situations successfully, as opposed to get stressed out and make rash or impulsive decisions.


Daniel Goleman, the American psychologist who popularised emotional intelligence in business says there are five key characteristics to emotional intelligence:


  1. Social skills

  2. Self-awareness

  3. Self-regulation

  4. Empathy

  5. Motivation


Of course, business can encourage strong leadership with emotional intelligence by promoting those who possess the skills into leadership positions. But contrary to popular belief, emotional intelligence can be learned.

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