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The doldrums of the typical nine-to-five job don’t do much to inspire employee excellence, according to Dr. Paul Elliott, owner of Exemplary Performance. “I realized that people need to know specific aspects of their job to perform well, but the fact that they’re knowledgeable doesn’t necessarily mean they will perform well,” Elliott said. He first noticed employee apathy while working as an external consultant with a background in human learning. Hoping to help companies increase productivity by focusing on the best employees at work, he founded Exemplary Performance in 2004.

The company’s method is simple: first, they ask clients what means the most to them in terms of productivity. “We have them identify the critical business metrics they care about,” said Elliott.

Next, Exemplary Performance asks the company to identify its “star performers,” as Elliott calls them. “Your star performers are those who succeed in spite of a faulty organizational structure,” he said. “If you understand how those star performers produce results, you can help shift the bulk of the people in the middle of the curve to a higher level of performance.”

The final step is getting the client to shift the workplace so that all employees begin to work at optimum levels. It is not merely teaching other employees to follow the examples of the best and brightest—it is revamping the entire atmosphere to foster an attitude of success in everyone else. “Microsoft, for instance, doesn’t recruit a new college grad who’s showing up to be number 91,999 out of 92, 000 employees,” Elliott said. “Everybody they hire wants to change the world. They show up to succeed and contribute.”

Despite the fact that some employees may show varying levels of commitment and success on the job, Elliott notes that lower performance isn’t always the employees’ fault; sometimes, the bureaucratic atmospheres of workplace environments simply fail to motivate and engage the employees. “They encounter a system that is unintentionally designed to constrain their performance,” he said. Elliott notes that positive reinforcement tools such as compensation, recognition, training and clear objectives are often inadequate—or not in place at all. This further compounds the need for outside experts like himself. “There’s no one person in an organization who controls all the variables that need to be architected to create a barrier-free work system,” he said.

After the economic downturn, the firm is now sailing smoothly—and continuing to improve the employee practices of other businesses. And due to their success, they’re becoming more exemplary themselves. “We are going to be hiring again,” said Elliott, noting that the 10-member firm has not made a hire since the downturn of 2008. “We anticipate 30 percent growth during 2012.”

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