High Performance Working

On 24 March 2015 by admin

Harnessing the talents of everyone to enable high performance working. 

The literature is abundant with ideas for bringing about a high performing workforce, service and culture – and this article attempts to bring some of these ideas together.

There are many definitions of ‘High Performance Working’, but for the sake of being succinct, the one offered by Belt & Giles (2009) of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills is cited:

 a general approach to managing organisations that aims to stimulate more effective employee involvement and commitment to achieve high levels of performance.”

At the workforce level, it is about utilising and managing skills and talents to their best effect.  It is about promoting healthy staff experiences, and positive organisational cultures that foster continuous learning and reflection.  In turn, high performing teams will deliver effective and efficient services – and in the context of healthcare – this could amount to safe, effective and person centred care.  The psychological safety of staff, trust, openness and the ‘just culture’ also contribute to ensuring safe, effective and person-centred care.

Grant (2015) suggested the following conceptual framework of five ‘High Performance Working’ facets:

  1.  Autonomy and empowerment: levels of involvement, decision making and risk taking/aversion
  2. Work organisation and job design: meaningful and rewarding work
  3. Team working and collaboration: ability to work collaboratively
  4. Leadership and management: visioning, strategy, quality of supervision, and mutual trust
  5. Learning environment: individual and organisational (knowledge management)

Hence ‘high performance working’ is simply not just about ‘employee skills utilisation’ but it is a combination of additional functions, and includes areas like intention/motivation, job design, and organisational cultures.

Following survey responses from employees and managers, the above five facets were further refined into a ‘High performance working’ index.

Asset Skills reflected upon the following five HR practices to achieve high performance working amongst employees:

  1. Job design, performance and rewards
  2. Learning and development, and the relationship with productivity
  3. Recruitment and its role in staff performance
  4. Communication, employee engagement, openness and trust
  5. Performance management, skills utilisation and personal development

As a final reflection, Boselie (2010) highlighted how the performance of a hospital depended on employee commitment and engagement.  Employee development and involvement were also contributing factors.  These perspectives were based on employee self-reports (rather than the usually predominate organisational analyses).  Implications arising highlighted the importance of ongoing education and training in support of high performance working cultures.



Asset Skills (nd).  High Performance Working (HPW).  Intelligence Paper: Issue 12.

Belt, V. & Giles, L. (2009). High Performance Working: A synthesis of key literature..  P. 17. Evidence report 4.  August 2009.  London: UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

Boselie, P. (2010).  High performance work practices in the health care sector: a Dutch case study.  International Journal of Manpower, 31(1): 42 – 58.

El-Farargy, N. (2014).  Aligning technology with workforce and organizational development.  Chapter 65, Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology, Third Edition.

Grant, K. (2015).  ‘Performance through People’ Enabling skills utilisation through high performance working.  Edinburgh Napier University.  Presented at NHS Education for Scotland, Education and Research Forum, 11 March 2015.

Scottish Government (2010).  The Healthcare Quality Strategy for NHSScotland.  May 2010.

Scottish Government (2013).  Everyone Matters: 2020 Workforce Vision.

The British Psychological Society (2014).  Implementing culture change within the NHS: Contributions from occupational psychology. Division of Occupational Psychology.



Except where attributed, © Nancy El-Farargy, 2015.


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