The Performance Driven Agency: Making It Work in Practice

Note: In this four part series, Kim Shepherd details how her agency, Decision Toolbox, uses a performance driven workforce model to achieve success. In part one she explained the essentials of the PDW model and how it is used at Decision Toolbox. In part two, Shepherd discussed the five principles of the performance driven workforce. Last week, she discussed the need to focus on building a process to deliver the outcomes you want. Today is the final part of the series.

I’ve been on my soapbox about the Performance Driven Workforce (PDW), a model I believe is more relevant to the Me, Inc. generation than total quality management or Six Sigma. While those are great methods, PDW can take the best of those and make it even better.

PDW is working well at Decision Toolbox (DT) and it’s a perfect marriage with our virtual structure. I’ll share some of the tactics we’ve used to drive performance across the organization. Remember: focus on process, not outcomes.

Performance Reviews Are So 1990

Instead of reviewing what happened in the past, use real-time metrics to drive performance. In human resources, for example, we monitor recruitment partners’ performance along a number of metrics (hire ratio, days to find, client satisfaction and many others). Recruiting Machine, our internally created organizational applicant tracking system, will alert us if the metrics are off. But it’s also a quality self-service tool. Our recruiters use it to focus their efforts before the alerts ever beep. This system drives performance by turning those numbers into an index score that we use to assign projects and, by extension, income.

Intentional Quality and Customer Service

These highlight the proactive nature of PDW. Set up your system to create excellence in those areas, not just to measure them. Among the tactics we use to do this are client quality surveys and candidate surveys. Results for both tie into the real time performance metrics, so our recruiters are incented to delight both clients and candidates. Metrics also feed into various dashboards for real-time monitoring and, more importantly, real-time calibration. We maintain squeaky boards (Remember those squeaky dry erase markers? We’ve digitized them.) to set targets, monitor and brainstorm solutions around candidate sourcing and quality.

Growth? Piece of Cake

Combine PDW with great technology, and you’ve got the basis for powerful scalability. Throw virtual into that mix and scalability becomes boom-ability. Being virtual has led us to create many of the tools that also make us boom-able. For example, managing change orders can be challenging in a sticks-and-bricks environment. In a virtual environment there are even more cracks for things to fall through.

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Say a client decides, mid-search, they want to open up the requirements to broaden the talent pool. At Decision Toolbox that means several people have to take care of various small tasks. In our system, a requestor fills out an online job change request, ticking off the various parties who need to take action. The notice is sent to all parties via email. As each party completes their task, they log it in the system. Sometimes the completion of one task triggers the next. But the system helps prevent things from falling through the cracks.

This is what I referred to previously as technology being the waffle batter that seals the gaps in your performance-driven processes.

Our People Are Our Product

This is especially true in the service industry, but it applies in others as well. And just as you would invest in your product, you need to invest in employees to keep them at peak performance. You’ll see ROI in quality of service and also in efficiency/cost effectiveness and employee retention. We depend on our people to be autonomous, so we micro-train and macro-manage. We offer regular training via Decision Toolbox University (DTU) and Decision Toolbox Sourcing University (DTSU). Training will always be more effective if it is fun and engaging!

Tom Brennan, Decision Toolbox senior writer, contributed to this article.

Kim Shepherd joined Decision Toolbox, a 100 percent virtual organization providing recruitment solutions in 2000 as CEO. Today, she leads the company’s growth strategy, primarily through developing partnerships and alliances, and as an active member of the Los Angeles and Orange County human resources communities. A recognized thought leader by HR organizations nationwide, she regularly speaks on topics such as recruitment best practices, recruitment process outsourcing, and the virtual business. She authored The Bite Me School of Management, a book journaling her business journey and the challenges she has overcome, and Get Scrappy, a business book that provides a new perspective on personal and corporate growth. Decision Toolbox is a four-time winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility.

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