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Every company needs staff members who perform at high levels – people who embody that esprit de corps which seems to make everything easier as it infuses throughout the organization. Successes at the individual contributor level naturally flow upwards through the organization and then back down to the bottom line. A high-performance environment elevates and enhances every team member's contribution.

Conventional wisdom dictates that everyone in each organization should be enthusiastic about their contributions, simply because management bestows generous incentives upon them. When people are accomplishing what they are supposed to do, rewards are distributed accordingly. That should serve as sufficient motivation, right?

Job descriptions lay out general expectations, goal reviews establish short terms needs and lay out a feedback system that keeps things on track. Incentives of all kinds, – be they promotions, bonuses or other financial awards, or special recognition, – all contribute to aligning people around a common purpose. With all of that in place, what else could possibly be needed?

While external incentives are certainly important, though, they aren’t enough to achieve the level of excellence needed to prevail in today's competitive business climate. Culture matters.

Employees are Motivated by a Sense of Purpose

Ask yourself what really motivates you. For most of us, it’s really about purpose. It’s about working in a culture of excellence and fostering a championship mindset. Ask the people that are widely recognized as high performers: What drives them? The first answer you’ll get, in the majority of cases, will have little or nothing to do with tangible incentives. If it were really all about external factors, then it should be relatively easy to set up a system of rewards and allow things to run on auto pilot.

People want to feel a connection to their work. They want to know that what they do matters. When people feel that they have some kind of relationship with the people who use their products and services, – even if they have ever met those people, – it serves as a strong motivation to perform quality work.

Which is more important in your organization – external incentives like compensation, or that internal drive for excellence? The former is easy to manipulate, but it can only take you so far. The latter, on the other hand, has tremendous power. A motivation toward excellence is contagious, – and when it catches on with enough people in your organization, then you truly have a culture of quality.

Quality Management Sets Clear Expectations

Quality management can serve an important role in motivating high performance. Not only do people wish to be valued for their efforts, but they also need a consistent system to inform them as to what is valued, and then to measure results and provide feedback. Quality management seeks to do that, – not necessarily as a means of judging personal performance, – but always as a yardstick for the results that matter most. Quality establishes what matters to the customer, and it determines the extent to which the organization is delivering on its promises.

Rigorous guidelines and unambiguous metrics serve as guardrails to let everyone know which results fall inside acceptable parameters, and which are sub-par. For employees, quality programs remove any points of contention by setting very clear expectations as to how work should be done. When employees have that kind of clarity, it sets the tone for a positive culture and work environment.

A Quality Culture is a Learning Culture

Excellence is all about continuous improvement. In a culture of quality, employees share a common drive to make things better. Finger-pointing and blame shifting are rare. Instead, people throughout the organization share an ethos of high-performance and are driven by a championship mindset.

In a learning organization, there is a common understanding that facts matter. Data is important, and to improve, everyone on the team must be willing to honestly face the questions “In what ways are we not doing our best?” and “What can we do differently to make things better?” When that becomes a shared conversation throughout your company, you have successfully built a learning organization.

Continuous Improvement Is Contagious

A culture of quality is contagious. When people are immersed in a quality-focused work environment, they will follow along with those who lead by example. Most people are naturally driven towards excellence when they see I performers all around them. On the other side of the coin, no one wants to be labeled as “that guy” that doesn't meet the other teammates’ expectations.

There is a special camaraderie that develops in high-performance teams. It has an attractive power to others. Great organizational cultures are magnets for talent, and that further feeds the virtuous cycle of excellence. When team members share a common belief that “failure is not an option”, it further reinforces that ethos. They’re always asking, “How do we create the next product or service, – one that is superior in meeting customer needs, – and how can we do it at a lower price, with higher efficiency, to yield an even higher measure of stakeholder value?”

There is nothing wrong with having a good system of external incentives in place to motivate your workforce. After all, people want to know that their work is valued and appreciated. But that spirit of high performance, reinforced with a clear cut and data driven QMS can truly take your organization to the next level. When expectations are clear and quality is established as a non-negotiable factor in producing great goods and services, a culture of quality can flourish.

Here at Intellect, we are proud of our own culture of quality. We live it every day as we strive to develop the best, most flexible software on the market for quality management. If your company aspires to be a high-performance organization, we ‘d love to be part of your journey. Contact us today to talk about how Intellect can help, and to arrange for freedom.

Peter Hargittay

Written by Peter Hargittay

Peter Hargittay is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and VP of Corporate Development at Intellect. Peter is responsible for rebranding the company as Intellect from Interneer and for positioning the company for significant growth. Peter joined Intellect in 2013, and is responsible for corporate, product, and online marketing, business development through the Intellect partner channel, demand generation, sales enablement, and go-to-market strategies. Peter has more than 15 years of experience in building successful software and services businesses. Prior to Intellect, Peter served as the VP of Marketing and Sales Operations at Arise Virtual Solutions, and previously held executive marketing roles at Aegis, PeopleSupport, Intersil, and FileNet. Peter received both his BA in Economics and MBA from California State University, Fullerton.