Ricky Robinson
Many companies pride themselves in the statement that their people are their greatest asset. While the adage rings true, it is not always that easy.


Ricky Robinson, CEO of LRMG – a leading performance agency, believes there are four areas that companies need to address to ensure they have the right people in their organisation. “You will know you have the right people in the right positions when they are engaged and producing positive results. Knowledge, skills, motivation and capacity are the four aspects that employers need to address,” he says.

Knowledge is gained from three sources. It can be gained outside of the organisation (from past experience, for example), from inside the organisation and through the acquisition of theory from learning institutions, reading and so on. “People need to have knowledge in order to know what they are doing and why they are doing it. Knowledge in isolation, however, is not useful, at least not to the organisation. It is when the knowledge is applied that it becomes valuable,” he adds.

Fortunately, a lack of knowledge is one area that can quite simply be rectified. Through training, mentoring, coaching and educating, employers can assist in increasing their workforce’s knowledge base. Robinson says employers need to remember that the way in which knowledge is imparted is also key. Learning can come in various forms from traditional classroom-based learning; e-learning; DVD watching; coaching and mentoring; to reading books, articles and online books. “Not all employees will respond in the same way to the same learning tool so be conscious of your employees’ needs. Calling in a consultant to help with this process may assist in finding what works best for your employees,” recommends Robinson.

Skills are the second aspect that needs attention. In his book entitled, Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin states that high performance is not a result of hard work and natural talent, but rather the result of a highly specific kind of effort called deliberate practice. Skills are gained through the application of knowledge and high performance is achieved through deliberately practising these skills over time. Paraphrased, he explains, “Practice falls into two large categories. One is conditioning, the other category is working on specific critical skills. Conditioning in business means getting stronger with the underlying cognitive skills that you probably already have. It can mean reviewing the fundamental skills that underlie your work. Specific skill development is based on focused simulation, and that concept can be applied widely in business. Try to improve a specific aspect of your performance, achieve high repetition and get immediate feedback.” Robinson agrees, saying that skills are enhanced through practice and employers need to encourage employees to practice their skills in order for them to grow and be stretched.

The third area that needs to be made a priority is motivation. Robinson says motivation has been shown to vastly improve people’s overall levels of performance. While people should make it their responsibility to come to work motivated and ready to work, it is important to encourage people’s motivation and provide the space for them to feel motivated and inspired. “Although motivation is the individual’s responsibility, through ensuring a good working environment, you can increase motivation. When leaders give people direction and meaning, people are motivated. There are also various motivational DVDs and books available that inspire people. Employers should not underestimate the effect that motivation has on a workforce. Investing time and resources to motivate employees will not go unrewarded,” he says.

Lastly, understanding an employee’s capacity or their ability to physically complete their jobs should be considered. Capacity refers to the amount of work and whether or not employees can fairly manage their workload in the time given. It also refers to their physical ability to carry out tasks based on their intellectual capacity and physical abilities. “While it is obviously unfair to expect a disabled person to carry out a task beyond their physical ability, it is just as unreasonable to expect people to perform when they have more than they can manage in the given time limit,” says Robinson. He adds that capacity is an area that can only be improved through a detailed understanding of the person’s workload. Through skills audits, employers can find out if their employees have the capacity to carry out their roles effectively. Capacity can be improved through better time management and through adjusting people’s responsibilities when they are overloaded.

“But,” concludes Robinson, “the key to high performance and low staff turnover is taking these four areas – knowledge, skills, motivation and capacity – seriously when initially hiring employees. The right people should have the mental and physical capacity to do the job they are assigned to and a plan of action needs to be put in place immediately on how to upskill, motivate and provide a source of knowledge for the newly hired employee. We refer to this as ‘onboarding’ and the companies that are getting this right and getting their new-hires more quickly aligned and performing effectively are today achieving significant competitive advantage.”