Human resources practitioners and business people alike know that high performance is paramount to business success. In this training module we seek to understand human performance and its management by organisations through new insights emanating from the field of neuroscience.
Part 1 – Understanding Performance
Setting goals focuses the brain’s filter systems to selectively:
- Attend to information in the environment directly relevant to achievement of the goal.
- We are motivated to approach or avoid situations and people based on the reward or threat content of the perceived interaction.
- The balance of neuro-chemical agents in the brain biologically underpins this motivation.
- Superior performance results not from stress states but from optimal arousal inducing the flow state. Flow results from
- Immersion and focused concentration and activates unique brain wave activity.
Part 2 – Performance Levers
- Sleep, nutrition and physical exercise are key physiological levers that can contribute to, and detract from, cognitive performance.
- Mindfulness practice leads to improvements in focus, attention, and mental well being through in-the-moment sensory presence and full engagement.
- Multi-tasking diffuses attention; compromises memory and can impede high performance.
Part 3 – Organisational Practices
- Leaders have the positional power to influence the threat and reward factors present in the work environment.
- Studies of performance feedback interventions show that while 30% of such interventions improve performance, another 30% have no effect and 40% actually make things worse.
- The new performance equation requires that we must develop and measure both capability and capacity.
- Elements that contribute to fostering a high performance workplace include challenge, focus, teams, support and autonomy
Setting goals is a clear pre-requisite for measuring their attainment. Goals provide an end point or target, against which we can determine, performance – successful or otherwise. We aspire to goal achievement – goals represent our progress over time and when achieved, provide a sense of completion and satisfaction. In this way, goals are integral to giving meaning and purpose to our lives. Our drive to take action, achieve goals and exert effort emanates from some of our deepest and oldest brain regions. Motivation is a survival necessity, so the neural circuitry developed for it is both extensive and heavily interconnected.
In this module we explored the role of sleep in memory consolidation and learning integration. Research shows the critical role of sleep in the memory encoding process, an essential prerequisite for learning. Here we focus on the role of sleep in cognitive performance. Most empirical studies have addressed this topic via research into sleep deprivation. What is the effect of sleep loss on our ability to think and perform? Measures of cognitive performance in sleep research focus on tasks requiring attention,
working memory, decision-making, judgment and memory encoding. In all cases, when we are subject to sleep deprivation, the news is generally not good.
In addition to sleep, the brain has some other basic requirements essential to its performance. This resource-hungry organ demands approximately 20% of the body’s energy output, which explains why we are less focused, tolerant and productive when we are hungry.
Exercise is also an important factor in brain function. Regular, moderate exercise oxygenates the blood circulating through the brain and results in numerous benefits. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) stimulates neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, and is increased as a result of voluntary physical activity. Exercise also reinforces neuroplasticity, resulting in improved cognitive performance and learning.
It appears that despite common agreement that setting goals and measuring their achievement are critical management functions, the past few decades of advances in performance management models, processes and technology have done little to advance satisfaction with this universal organisational activity. Most approaches to performance management still place their emphasis on process and mechanics at the expense of communicating clear and simple messages and engaging employees to achieve their own performance potential.
At the end of this session, participants will be able to: (not limited to)
- Describe the importance of goals with regard to performance
- Discuss the performance levers associated with peak performance
- Detail the factors that contribute to the dissatisfaction with organisational performance management