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Performance-Driven Workforce is the new TQM

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By Kim Shepherd, CEO
With Tom Brennan, Senior Writer

Why the Performance-Driven Workforce is Better than TQM for the Service Industry

Part 2 in our series: The Performance-Driven Workforce: Performance Management Just Got Served

Total Quality Management (TQM) took the public and private sectors by storm in the late 1980s. There isn’t really a single definition, in spite of being championed by people like W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran, and implemented by the U.S. Navy, Ford, Xerox, Fedex and other industry leaders. Since then interest has shifted toward quality programs like ISO 9000 and Six Sigma.

All of these programs are valuable. In fact, at Decision Toolbox (DT) we utilize Six Sigma methods in our own quality efforts. Yet ultimately all three originated in manufacturing, and come from a manufacturing worldview. Each is at least 30 years old.

I think there is a better fit for service organizations in 2014: the Performance-Driven Workforce. In Part 1 of this blog series I gave the reasons we chose it at DT, and why it works well with our 100% virtual company. Here in Part 2 and continuing in Part 3, I’d like to lay out the gist of the performance-driven workforce, at least as I see it, and why it is a better fit. AT DT, a performance-driven workforce is based on five principles: Process, People, Performance, Profit and Purpose. Let’s look at the first two here, and the final three in Part Three.

Design a Killer Process

At DT we’re not experts in recruiting for specific professional fields (although we have recruiters with expertise in IT, Accounting, Manufacturing and other areas). Rather, we are experts in recruitment process. We’ve been refining it for over 20 years. To define your process, you need to start by asking what are the optimal deliverables in your industry? It’s NOT necessarily what others do! This is an opportunity to differentiate your company.

Process must come first and it has to be well defined. For example, at DT we believe the optimal deliverable is quality candidates and excellent customer service delivered in a timely manner at a reasonable cost. We had to ask ourselves: what processes can we put in place to ensure we present quality candidates? One process is the Discovery Call, a brainstorming/consultation session that we hold with the hiring manager (HM) at the start of a project.

By probing for information between the lines of a traditional job description — and listening very carefully — we understand what that ideal candidate looks like from the beginning. The Discovery Call also gives us the opportunity to push back, to help the HM understand the candidate market and challenges, and to set expectations. It sets the stage, moving forward, for our Recruiters to act as true partners in this search, and in future ones.

Hire Great People

This is one aspect that makes the performance-driven workforce relevant to the 21st century: the Me, Inc. mentality has spread beyond Gen Y. People in service industries have adopted a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and tying compensation to performance not only makes sense to them, but it also motivates them. You need to make sure your people have a vested interest in the five Ps, and you need to provide clear expectations. By establishing a great process, you’ve provided the tools your people need, but keep in mind that it’s never static: all five Ps can and should change.

I can’t say enough about the importance of hiring strong, self-motivated talent. But just as important is the way you approach them. As Stephen Covey said, “Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” Here’s my version: if leadership treats employees as clients, then employees will treat the customer exceptionally well. Give your people the tools they need, recognize their accomplishments, help them develop professionally . . . wrap the love around them!

We’re just getting started on this topic — check back soon for more. Meanwhile, tell us what you think. Post a comment!


Connect with Kim on Twitter and LinkedIn.

To learn more about Decision Toolbox, please contact us – we’d love to hear from you!

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2 Responses to “Performance-Driven Workforce is the new TQM”

  1. August 13, 2014 at 8:15 am, Jasmine said:

    Very interesting topic indeed! I totally agree that employees are the start point to drive up the performance in service/product firms (happy employees make happy customers). Design a Killer Process we can call it the firm’s value proposition which starts by identifying the customers need till fulfilling it and satisfying or over satisfying them. usually during this process we must consider the three important attributes that influence the customer satisfaction (time of delivering the service- the service price- and the service quality).
    and of course hiring skilled employees is very crucial for the firm’s success, not only because they will satisfy your customer needs, but also when the front line employees are skilled they would be able to deliver the ideas for improving the firm’s service/products from the customers to the top management (the front line employees are the closest to the customers and to the processes of delivering P/S) .
    Again very interesting!
    Good luck!


  2. August 14, 2014 at 10:48 am, Kim Shepherd said:

    Jasmine – thank you for your additional thoughts. Focus must be on the front line employees and their interaction with the customer. Excellence really can travel from the bottom to the top.


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