People or Performance?

My middle daughter is currently in London and was lucky to watch a soccer (football) match between Chelsea Women and Lyon Feminin last week. In each team was one Matilda, playing against each other. It was a thrilling match resulting in a win for Chelsea.

Ok, enough soccer you say – what’s my point? In February 2023 the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) released the report entitled Performance Through People. In it they analysed 1800 large companies across all sectors and 15 countries, sorting them into 4 categories based on their focus on Performance, or People, or both (or neither).

The results were hardly surprising. The businesses that focused on their people as much as company performance, generally outperformed the others. The benefits from balancing this focus were measured in return on investment, consistency of performance, revenue growth during the pandemic, retention rates, and economic profit.

It’s the same in a soccer team. A team like the Matilda’s has many more players than those 11 you see on the field. The club builds up the players’ individual skills and fitness, and has a succession plan for ensuring junior players get enough match time to make them match fit when they need to step in. And star players like Ellie Carpenter and Sam Kerr travel to Europe to play professionally in the off season. By balancing their focus on people and performance the Matilda’s are getting stronger every year. (They’ve lost only 2 of their last 13 matches!)

Don’t all Large Companies do This?

Back to the MGI report. I would expect all large companies to have a focus on the development of their people in line with their focus on company performance, yet they don’t all manage it. According to MGI, less than 10% get the balance right, with 15% swinging too far towards a people focus. However, more than 75% of companies focused on performance only, or nothing at all!

The diagram from MGI shows some of the difference approaches from the organisations.

Now if you are a medium (or even a small) organisation – this doesn’t excuse you. You can benefit from mirroring the best of the larger organisations buy investing in your organisation’s systems and processes, inclusion, clarity of company vision and performance expectations, empowering employees to take ownership of initiatives, and intentional professional development for employees.