How to Gain a Competitive Advantage With an Outcomes-Driven Approach


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For generations, most leaders have followed a fairly consistent formula to keep pace with their competitors. That is, they measure achievement based on worker time and activity. In other words, when employees put in more hours, they are expected to get more of their to-do lists accomplished for the betterment of the company. Though this model used to work, it's starting to unravel. As a result, more progressive organizations are gaining competitive advantages through the power of purpose-led and outcomes-driven approaches.

Why the change? Workers are craving something different from their jobs. No longer are they satisfied with just having a transactional employer-employee relationship. They want to feel a sense of belonging and connection to their workplaces. For many workers, having a hand in the bigger picture matters because they know how and what they've contributed.

This desire for deeper engagement was amplified when remote and hybrid work became the status quo during the global healthcare crisis of 2020. Talented people realized that they no longer were willing to be tethered to a geographic office or evaluated by numbers on a timesheet. They wanted to be valued and treated like equals with all their colleagues — including their bosses — and not treated like children who required constant monitoring and supervision. In essence, they wanted to apply their innovation and creativity toward a higher purpose.

Unfortunately, only some organizations seem to have gotten this message (or been willing to acknowledge it). Gartner's research shows that less than half of the employees they surveyed felt like their employers saw them as whole people. That's not a surprise to those of us in the people management business. We've seen an uptick in companies using so-called “productivity tools” to keep tabs on their workers' every screen movement and keystroke.

Unfortunately, these half-baked solutions are disheartening and oppressive. They are also fast ways to lose the competitive opportunities that come when you make a switch to an outcome-focused way of evaluating success rather than an antiquated “time plus energy equals profits” approach.

Related: How to Balance Ethical Growth and Competitive Advantages

How to actually increase innovation amidst competition

Just how can you help everyone row toward the same outcomes and let go of the way you've been managing your people? Try implementing the following techniques:

1. Revisit everyone's roles

Pull out all your job descriptions, and go through them carefully. How you describe people's roles makes a huge difference. Do you notice that all your job descriptions outline a list of tasks rather than the purpose of the job? This is a sure sign that you're not enabling employees to reach for outcomes. On the contrary, you're defining them by how many and what things they do each day or week.

Now is a good time to refresh the language in all those job descriptions. Your objective should be to outline the purpose that the position holds for the company and the outcomes to be achieved — not detail every task the employee will do. What you'll find after going through this exercise is a deeper understanding of the value that each position plays within your organization. When you focus on outcomes, you're creating energy and excitement, which leads to greater innovation and results.

A side benefit of revamping your job descriptions and roles is that you'll begin to attract and hire more purpose-driven candidates. A full 70% of workers told McKinsey & Company that their purpose came from their careers. People looking for meaningful work naturally will find a purpose-led job description appealing. Just be sure that you give your interview process an overhaul to ensure that you're evaluating applicants the new way rather than an old one.

2. Stop being power-stingy

Are you honestly focused on evolving with an outcome mindset at your company? Then give team members the power to do their jobs. Period. The distribution of power allows everyone to move faster. Whenever possible, push decision-making to the closest possible level and avoid all the trappings of bureaucracy.

This may feel very counterintuitive, particularly if you've kept most decisions at the executive and director levels. However, you'll soon find that when you trust people, they typically want to live up to your expectations. Additionally, your actions may spur greater loyalty and tenure. A PwC study indicated that nearly half of workers were willing to forgo a 20% salary bump in exchange for increased autonomy.

To make this work, you'll need to be the first to role-model empowerment behavior. Look for areas where you can hand over decision-making power not just to direct reports but to their direct reports. In time, you should see a marked change.

Related: How to Turn Micromanagement Into Empowerment and Unlock True Employee Satisfaction

3. Reinforce your purpose often

People have short memories sometimes. They can lose sight of their purpose and may need you to guide them back. Rather than treat your purpose as just another checklist item during meetings, fold it into conversations. Point out how what someone is doing will get you all closer to the organization's desired outcomes. Never assume that everyone will see how they're making a difference. Sometimes you'll have to show them.

You can do this in innovative and unique ways sometimes. For instance, Gartner has talked about the importance of companies encouraging workers to take care of their health and well-being. But what many employees don't realize is that something as seemingly unrelated as taking extra PTO before an expected time-crunch surge can have purpose-related benefits.

Salesforce emphasizes the importance of employee well-being and work-life balance. The company understands that a well-rested and healthy team is more productive and better equipped to serve its customers. To support this, Salesforce offers various wellness programs, flexible work options and generous time-off policies. By encouraging employees to prioritize their well-being, Salesforce ensures that its workforce remains energized and capable of delivering exceptional results.

After all, a well-rested team is more capable of handling all the stressors related to a heavier-than-average work week or month. Consequently, that team will be able to keep productivity high and make well-informed decisions because they won't be depleted from the start.

Related: Why a Purpose-Driven Business Is the Real Key to Success

You may not be 100% comfortable with hybrid work, remote employees or purpose-driven management. Nevertheless, they're the future of work — and that means they're going to be essential if you want to remain an industry leader. Take time this quarter to talk with the other leaders at your company about moving everyone toward an outcome mindset. You'll be glad when you find yourself looking at competitors in the rearview mirror.

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