Performance-Focused Culture vs. Growth Culture: Why Blaast Chooses the Latter

We live in a high-paced corporate world unlike any in history. Business executives are faced with a highly competitive environment, and the pressure is on to see results. With the success of…

We live in a high-paced corporate world unlike any in history. Business executives are faced with a highly competitive environment, and the pressure is on to see results. With the success of companies on the line, it can feel like today it’s all about high-performance for employees. Who can put out the highest numbers? Whose report is the most impressive? Amid this pressure to be the best, individuals are all too often oversimplified by the statistics they produce. Harvard Business Review says that there is irony in this situation, because building a culture specifically focused on performance may not be the best, healthiest, or most sustainable way to fuel success. Instead, it is more effective to focus on growth. Here at Blaast, we focus on employees as individuals who are not only capable of but also built for growth. 

It’s important to note that a company’s culture falls on the shoulders of C-Suite leaders as well as lower-level managers. As team leaders, you are responsible for both creating and maintaining an environment that can cultivate success. Culture, simply put, is the collection of beliefs on which people base their behavior. If the message is focused on high performance, we’re likely to see employees forcing themselves to put aside work-life balance, personal needs, and even internal values in order to meet the cultural expectations. On the other hand, when the message is growth, a company is more likely to see employees focusing on their mental and physical well-being, striving to meet their personal and professional goals, and sincerely enjoying the work they put submit. 

What does a high-performance culture look like?

First, let’s go over what a high-performance culture really looks like. On the outside, people may see high-performance cultures as “industry leaders,” or high EOY reports. On the inside, it is not uncommon for employees to suffer with burnt out, poor mental health, and no work-life balance. According to research quoted by Forbes, 46% of HR leaders say that employee burnout is responsible for up to half (20-50%, specifically) of annual workforce turnover. Turnover rates can cost on average 33% of an employee’s annual salary. Creating a culture focused too heavily on high performance creates a situation in which companies are forced into unnecessary spending on turnover rates. High-performance culture can also lead to employees with poor mental health, struggling with mental illnesses ranging from perfectionism, anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome. The CDC tells us that mental illnesses like depression reduce cognitive function and performance about 35% of the time. This means that employees who are pushed past their mental limits may, ironically, show lower performance rates. Lastly, when it’s all about input/output, employees may feel pressure to stay after hours, sacrificing their home-life, and leading to poor mental health in the long-run. 

What does it mean to have a growth culture?

Now, what does a “growth culture” entail? Instead of putting the focus and pressure on results, a company with growth culture focuses on the journey towards results. Employees are seen as individuals with goals rather than potential for high statistics. In a growth-focused environment, people are supported and empowered with necessary resources, continual learning, and intrinsic motivation sprouting from a true sense of purpose at work. At Blaast, our model is set up to help managers really engage their employees. Blaast is designed so that managers are more involved in goal setting, progress checks, and ultimately performance results with each of their team members. Growth culture, for us here at Blaast, is goal-driven rather than results-driven. 


Why should you strive for a growth culture? 

You may be asking yourself, “if the work isn’t results-driven, why would I want a growth culture?” At Blaast, we’ve hacked the system—we focus on growth and still see the desired results. This isn’t a particularly new concept, though. Higher levels of employee engagement have already shown tremendous performance results in the corporate world. We have a few blog posts about employee engagement featured on our website, you can view them here and here. The gist is this: when employees feel a sense of purpose and belonging at work, when they know that they are valued and that they are contributing to something important within their company, then they will exhibit hard work because they want to, and they will press for success not to meet high-pressure quotas, but rather to develop as working professionals. Though a different motivator, the results are the same, and in some respects even better. Instead of employees struggling to meet minimums due to poor mental health stemming from feeling undervalued and overwhelmed, individuals are happy to be working on each task or project. Instead of companies spending budgeted money on turnover costs, companies can maintain that revenue or use it to reward employees who are going the extra mile. At Blaast, it’s people first, results second, but both showcase success across the board.                                  

How do you achieve a growth culture?

Now that you understand the benefits of a growth culture, especially relative to a culture centered on high performance, it’s fair to wonder how a culture shift may be possible. Harvard Business Review documents four components that are necessary to build a growth culture. 

  1.   Create a safe environment. When work feels like a safe place, mistakes become the best learning experiences instead of that dreadful walking-on-eggshells feeling. Managers should model vulnerability and humility by taking responsibility for their shortcomings. 
  2.   Center your culture on continuous learning. Inquiry, curiosity, and transparency should replace judgement, certainty, and self-protection. A culture focused on learning ensures that employees are constantly improving in their respective roles.
  3.   Experiment with new behaviors. Manageable experiments test the unconscious assumption that change from the norm is dangerous or frightening. Positively reinforcing good behavior change helps employees feel more comfortable with the changes that come quickly and frequently in a growth culture.
  4.   Finally, incorporate a system of continuous feedback at work. At Blaast, we have highlighted the vital nature of the continuous feedback system a few times on our blog, you can read about that here and here.

The HBR article continues in arguing that an organization that rewards appropriate risk-taking and vulnerability in order to drive innovation, one that is flooded with coaching and learning, lends itself to infinite possibilities for success. Here at Blaast, we aim to cultivate growth cultures, and do so by creating a system of feedback and accountability. We’ve incorporated ways to track feedback meetings, goals, and rewards.  

At the end of the day, it is true that the Benjamins pay the bills, but performance-focused culture is not the best way to get there. With growth culture, the charts can be shattered, statistics can exceed the 100% scale, and goals are endless. Instead of measuring up against quotas and focusing on failures vs. successes, businesses should consider centering their work environment on learning, feedback, and improvement. In doing so, employees are happier, less anxious, less depressed, and more motivated. These factors affect retention rates, turnover costs, and ultimately results. With the right growth culture implementation, nothing stands in the way of success.

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