Were they any good?
I reckon most readers are thinking what the heck is an HPE? I only came across the term a few days ago here on Medium. It means High Performance Employee.
That got me wondering: What are my views on what defines an HPE? This article is the result.
I am not an HPE and would not dream of classifying myself as one. My experience is very narrow restricted mainly to the Financial Markets and the Technology used in that sector. My examples will draw from this industry but I will try to extend to other industries too.
Furthermore, I’m not a Human Resources professional. Everything I say should be taken with a bagful of salt and vinegar.
I think people can be categorized according to the following dimensions:
- Theoretical Skill: Quite simply, the technical skill to do the work. Every industry needs some aspect of technical know-how. It could even be to understand and follow the business process.
For example, software design practices, understanding financial products/models. In Accounting, skill is required to construct a coherent set of accounts.
- Applied Experience: When technical skills are applied to the real world a whole load of pleasure and pain is experienced. This real world experience ensures that the Person understands when to apply the technical skill exactly and when to ease back a little. A key part is evaluating various options in terms of trade-off: Benefit vs Cost vs Time vs Risk. Experience can be classed as not just how to do things but also how not to do things! In this way, all Experience is worthwhile.
For example, for a software developer, understanding the business area in order to ensure the requirements are met.
For a financial analyst the real-world applications of running, monitoring and reporting on a trading strategy.
For an Accountant, using MS Excel and well-known Accounting software packages together with understanding an industry to ensure Accounting standards are met.
- Personality: In my opinion this is THE most important dimension. You can learn the Theory. You can apply the Theory and turn it into worthwhile Experience. But if you don’t have any concept of self-worth or a modicum of social conduct than it’s very difficult to contribute for the greater good.
Examples of Personality are: self-motivation, humour/banter, honesty, reliability, tenacity, creativity, enthusiasm, positivity, verbal & non-verbal communication, assertiveness, well-roundedness, kindness, humbleness etc etc as you can see the list is both obvious and endless.
We can use an arbitrary scale to rate a person from 1 to 5 (say) for each of the above dimensions. Anyone scoring a 555 is an HPE. We could have chosen any value eg a scale of 1–10, hence an HPE would a perfect 101010.
A simpler but complementary approach is as follows:
- Do I want to work with this Person — yes or no?
- Do I want to go out for beers (or dinner) with this Person — yes or no?
This gives us four options:
- No, I don’t want to work with the person nor share a beer.
This is obviously the worst case scenario, enough said. Everyone needs to get together to help that person.
- Yes, I do want to work with the person but I don’t want to share a beer with them.
Clearly the person is a hugely trustworthy worker but perhaps their social skills could be improved.
- No, I do not want to work with the Person but I’d gladly have a beer with them.
This sounds odd at first, but it shows that the person has great social skills to get on with people but their general skills need to improve. Maybe, some appropriate training would help.
- Yes I want to work with them and I’d be delighted to have a few beers with them too!
This is obviously the best case scenario strongly indicating the person is an HPE.
We can use the above suggestions to rate candidates. My particular style is to:
- Prepare questions for the Three Dimensions
- Evaluate the person in the sense that I assume they’re already a 555 HPE. But as they explain their skills and experience, if they don’t live up to their CV and Job Spec then I would mark them down.
- Use the Two Dimensions to make a judgement call on the candidate.
Some Top Tips
I’ve decided to group these tips according to the Three Dimensions.
Learn your area thoroughly. Through training, books or just google searches — find out!
Read around the subject e.g. my reading of software development has led me to Philosophy, Art, Poetry and this Blog.
Learn to understand TradeOffs. For example, you can not get maximum benefit at cheapest cost in quickest time for minimum risk.
Practice makes perfect. If you stay upbeat, keep trying and learning from your mistakes something good will happen.
When dealing with your manager and people around you appreciate that you have essentially three strategies:
(1) Passive: You are 100% completely managed and told what to do. Sometimes this is valid especially during a major external issue.
(2) Active: When asked a question try to offer several options with full justification of your opinion
(3) Pro-Active: Don’t wait to be asked, open your eyes and see what’s going on. Volunteer your suggestions to those around you, especially to your management.
Be creative! This may seem hard but the more you think about a work-placed task, the more likely an answer will pop into your head, typically late at night.
Justify yourself. Your opinions are already great but they’d serve greater interest if you could justify them. It all starts with staying calm, listening, thinking and only then, responding. This could be for anyone, your peers and your superiors.
Keep up with the Banter/Humour. Ok not everyone is the Life & Soul of the Party like me lol, but being aware of what you say and how you say it is a core communication skill. Keep smiling.
Treat everyone with respect but have the attitude that you need to earn their respect via building your reputation of doing a great job in way that’s fun/pleasurable for everyone involved.
Have some humility. Sometimes the worst most mundane jobs have the greatest chance of learning something new.
Always help. Assuming your work load doesn’t suffer too much, it’s an opportunity to learn.
In conclusion: The route to becoming an HPE is: You’ve got this far, be yourself.