01.08.2023 Human Resources Employee engagement Employee performance survey

Less than half of employees are achieving optimal performance

Organizations can increase optimal performance among employees by giving performance cues that guide employee agency.

Only 41% of employees are currently performing optimally – consistently giving their best work in a way they are confident they can sustain over the next year, according to Gartner, Inc.

Post-pandemic, work has become “unbounded,” with fewer constraints on when, where and how it must be done. This is especially true for remote-capable employees, who don’t need to be in a specific location or interact with others in-person to do their work.

While a March 2023 survey of 139 HR leaders found that 96% reported they met or exceeded their 2022 employee performance targets, only 58% are confident that they can meet or exceed their 2023 employee performance targets.

“Only 29% of HR leaders feel confident that their organization’s current processes are effective at helping employees achieve and sustain their best possible performance. They are concerned that employees are not giving their best work, are struggling to sustain their efforts, or both, leaving them worried for their organization’s future performance”,

said Kayla Velnoskey, senior research principal in the Gartner HR practice.

A February 2023 Gartner survey of 2,280 remote-capable employees revealed that 24% of employees are consistently giving their best work, but they are not confident they can sustain it over the next year. Another 14% of employees are confident they could sustain their performance, but they are not consistently giving their best work. The remaining 21% of employees who are not performing optimally are not consistently giving their best work, and they are not confident they can sustain it over the next year.

How Performance Is Achieved

With 59% of employees not performing optimally, organizations are not maximizing employees’ potential performance sustainably. Employees who are not performing optimally contribute up to 25% less value to the organization and are 14% less likely to stay with their employer.

“HR’s typical approach to employee performance today supports what we call ‘employee agency’, which enables individuals and teams to take ownership over their performance. However, supporting employee agency alone fails to address three burdens on performance: excessive ‘work to do work,’ fatigue, and feelings of futility. Many HR leaders are facing pressure to bring back constraints of the past as organizations fear this is the only other approach to address these burdens”,

explained Velnoskey.

Gartner research reveals that the best organizations have discovered another option: guiding employee agency by giving performance cues. To guide employee agency, organizations must provide employees with three performance cues – signals that guide employees’ choices about their performance – around their path, pace and progress.

Path Cue

Leading organizations both enable employees’ autonomy to make decisions about their work, and clarify context for those decisions. Understanding the context for decisions helps employees select paths that are likely to succeed in advance instead of having to continually adjust to align to others’ needs or the resources available at the organization.

Enabling autonomy and giving context for decisions together reduces spending excessive time and effort on “work to do work” by up to 9% and increases the likelihood of employees achieving optimal performance 2.4 times.

Pace Cue

Progressive organizations are building wellness into work to help employees see how wellness can be a part of how they perform, not an additional thing they have to do.

Building wellness into work makes it easier for employees to choose a sustainable pace and avoid fatigue. Incorporating wellness into work, in addition to encouraging employees to care for their wellness, reduces fatigue by up to 41%, and employees are 2.8 times more likely to achieve optimal performance.

Progress Cue

The best organizations recognize high-performance actions to show when success is achieved in real time.

Recognizing high-performance actions supports employees to drive for exceptional progress by signaling to employees the specific actions the organization wants them to continue. This reduces employees’ feeling that their efforts to meet or exceed organizations’ performance expectations are futile by up to 9% while increasing the likelihood of employees achieving optimal performance 5.7 times.

Source: Gartner