Moving From "Good Work" To "Great Work"

Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 24 May 2016

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I recently came across a very interesting new study conducted by OC Tanner, a global premium, recognition and rewards company, called the "Great Work Index Study". The study polled more than 3,400 employees from the United States, Australia, Canada, U.K., Germany and India. The study found that there are two main accelerators that encourage employees to strive for greatness: the organization's expectations for greatness, and access to resources.

The "Great Work Index Study" defines good work as “adequate” and “expected.” It is work that is completed on time and leaves a positive impression with managers. Great work is defined as “innovative or productive work that goes beyond expectations. It might be about improving things or simply delivering additional value. But most of all, great work makes a difference people love.”

“Front line employees often feel like cogs in a machine, and as a result, don’t feel the pressure to produce above-average work. Where there is a clear expectation that all employees should perform great work and they actually take the responsibility to perform it, companies see an overall increase in productivity. The first step to achieving great work environments are to articulate clear expectations, from the bottom to the top; step two is to provide agility to your workforce. Companies need to believe all employees can and should be producing great work, and they need to give employees the opportunities to actually perform it.”

Other key survey findings include:

  • 79 percent of respondents feel like “all employees” should perform great work, but only 59 percent feel like “all employees” actually take the responsibility to perform great work.
  • Non-managers have a hard time seeing the value in their work, and also report the lowest access to resources. Consequently, they tend to have lower expectations of great work being performed in their organizations.
  • Employees who work at companies where it is believed all employees should perform great work and actually take the responsibility to perform great work see, on average, a 14 percent increase in productivity.

So the question becomes what can companies do to move beyond good work into great work?

In my opinion it is all about leadership, alignment and culture. Leaders must do a better job aligning employee behavior with expectations across the organization. When a company and its leadership are successful at getting employees at all ranks to both believe all employees should perform great work AND actually take the responsibility to perform it, it leads to more productive employees. Mediocrity should never be the rule. They should strive to be exceptional. Leaders must articulate clear ambitious goals, establish cultural values and standards that are coupled with a strong brand, and be inspirational in their personal behavior and attitudes. Leaders must recognize great work of their employees by sharing their accomplishments and setting clear institutional expectations. They should also visit with employees to see what great ideas they are working on, and provide ample resources and time to help innovation occur. And most of all, leadership must convey to all employees that their contributions and their work really matters and reward them appropriately.

Creating high employee engagement consistently shows up as a top challenge facing leaders today. It’s no coincidence that all of the things that move an employee from doing good work to doing great work are directly connected to creating a culture of high engagement. By definition, employee engagement means that employees passionately go above and beyond their job duties. So the natural outcome of a culture of high engagement will be great work. 

If you want to learn more about creating a culture that results in employees doing great work, give us a call.