You Want a Performing Team? 100% Effort Is Not The Answer

100% effort never translates to an optimal performing team. Despite some companies’ attempts, we can’t fix today’s burnout culture with a wellness app. What it takes, instead, is a mindset and culture shift among managers and organisations everywhere.

The old management mindset

An outdated way of thinking about peak performance is “maximum effort = maximum results.” It doesn’t actually work that way in reality, but many managers still believe that it does. They might talk a good game about “practicing self-care,” but their core assumptions are often more akin to a bad 1980s motivational speaker. (Think: “No pain, no gain,” “No guts, no glory,” and “Give it 110%!”)

When managers expect 80+ hours a week from people while offering Friday yoga to combat stress, they unintentionally create a toxic contradiction. It’s a classic example of what we call in psychology a “double bind”: Employees can’t talk about the contradiction, and they can’t talk about not being able to talk about it.

As a result, many well-intended efforts to end the burnout epidemic don’t actually work. If you think individual overachievers are solely to blame for exhaustion, then you’ll only end up addressing the wrong problem. Consider McKinsey’s research on burnout, which showed that “in all 15 countries and across all dimensions assessed, toxic workplace behaviour was the biggest predictor of burnout symptoms and intent to leave by a large margin.”

Not only does this old mindset not produce high performance, it also creates a downward spiral of toxicity begetting burnout begetting toxicity. What we need instead is a new management mindset, supported by data, for how to really get the best out of our people. Instead of “maximum effort = maximum results,” a better formula is: “optimal effort = maximum results.” Less effort can actually lead to more success.

The new management mindset

Here’s what actually works: the 85% rule. The 85% rule counterintuitively suggests that to reach maximum output, you need to refrain from giving maximum effort. Operating at 100% effort all of the time will result in burnout and ultimately less-optimal results.

For example, when sprinters are told to accelerate to their 100% level too soon, they end up running a slower race overall. As Carl Lewis, who won nine Olympic gold medals, explains, the notion of “no pain, no gain” is ridiculous. He says, “Your training should be sensible. In many cases it is more important to rest than it is to drive yourself to the point of pain.” Lewis’s coach, Tom Tellez, suggests that the peak performer in sprinting relax their jaw, face, and eyes. “Don’t grit your teeth,” he advises. “If you do, that tension will run all the way down your neck and trunk to your legs.”

How to build a high-performing team — without burning people out

Create a “done for the day” time

Where possible, managers should establish a “done for the day” time. When managers are ambiguous about the length of workdays, they risk introducing decision fatigue, diminishing returns, or even getting negative returns from their employees.

Toxic managers see setting a reasonable hard stop for the day as impossible. A colleague told me that their boss said in no uncertain terms: “You can’t get ahead here if you want to be home for dinner with your family.”

Transactional managers see employees having a done-for-the-day time as a necessary evil: “I suppose you need to do what you need to do.” They let people keep to the schedule begrudgingly.

Transformational managers insist upon a reasonable time for employees to leave work. For example, when a new employee at a private equity firm was eager to make a good impression, he stayed late. After all, he had been trained at previous companies to expect kudos for the extra effort. But this company and manager were different. When his manager saw him still sitting at his desk after everyone else had gone home, he said, “Why are you still here? We don’t stay late here unless there is an absolute emergency. We want you to be fresh tomorrow morning. Please go home.”

Ask for a little less than maximum capacity

Effort and fatigue can create confusion for people regarding the quality of their performance. People can mistake the perception of maximum effort with what actually produces maximum results. However, the highest effort doesn’t always equal the highest performance. Managers can take advantage of this by inviting team members to work a little below what they perceive to be their maximum capacity.

To help coach employees to get to and stay in this sweet spot, managers can ask, “What does it feel like to be at 100% intensity?” and then follow up with: “How can you keep this closer to the 85% level?” This type of perceived level of exertion is a concept used in physical rehab to prevent latent — or hidden — fatigue, but it can also be used by managers to help their employees stay in their sweet spot.

Ask “how am I making your work more stressful than it needs to be?”

Top performers are typically already self-motivated, so managing them like everyone else will only exhaust them, leading them to become a flight risk. A study at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and the Faas Foundation of over 1,000 U.S. employees found that 20% of employees reported being both highly engaged and having high burnout.

This “engaged-exhausted group” were passionate about their work, but also had a high level of stress and frustration. These were the employees with the highest risk of quitting their jobs — higher even than unengaged employees. This suggests that companies may lose their most capable employees not due to a lack of engagement, but rather because of their high stress and burnout levels.

To avoid this, managers can ask their top performers a simple but powerful question — “How am I making your work more stressful than it needs to be?” — and then take the necessary actions to improve upon the situation.

Encourage 85%-right decisions

When making decisions as a team, don’t push for “100% perfect.” Let people know when an 85%-right decision is acceptable.

Research has uncovered two distinct types of perfectionists. The first is “excellence-seeking” perfectionists: people who hold high standards for themselves and others. The second type is “failure-avoiding” perfectionists: people who are consistently anxious that their work is not sufficient or adequate, who fear losing the esteem of others if they fail to attain perfection.

Asking for 85%-right decisions takes unnecessary pressure off your highest-performing employees — and it keeps your team moving forward, rather than waiting for the 100%-right decision before they take action.

Watch out for high-pressure language

As a manager, it is vital to be mindful of the language you use when communicating with your team. The use of high-pressure terms such as “ASAP,” “NEED,” or “URGENT” in emails or meetings can create excessive stress and pressure for your team members.

To avoid this, it’s essential to foster open communication about genuine deadlines, the reasons behind them, and the potential trade-offs. Instead of expecting employees to always agree to every request, consider asking them, “What do you need to say no to in order to say yes to this?” By granting autonomy in choosing their projects, you can ensure that your star employees maintain high performance levels while also avoiding burnout.

End meetings 10 minutes early

A manager shared this with me recently: “If you can be any kind of manager, be the kind who ends the meeting early.” It struck me as both funny and true.

Many employees still feel like they live the “Zoom, eat, sleep, repeat” life that was so common during the pandemic. Certainly, far more meetings are now held on video than ever before. And we know that video “exhaust(s) the human mind and body” faster than in-person meetings or just being on the phone.

Research from Microsoft’s Human Factors Lab found that our brains work differently when we take 10-minute breaks between meetings. That small break stops stress from building up, while back-to-back meetings decrease people’s ability to focus and engage.

Set your own intensity level to 85%

It’s important that managers also set their own minds to 85% intensity to model to their team that it’s okay not to be stressed out of their minds all the time. When managers say that employees should not work late nights or on weekends, but then send emails at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, their actions speak louder than their words.

Research shows that employees look to their bosses for cues far more than many managers realize. In a curious finding, researchers found that baboons look to their alpha male “boss” every 20 to 30 seconds, and humans may not be so different. So, if you’re going to write emails late and on weekends, at least schedule them to be sent at 9 a.m. Monday morning.

The 85% rule may seem counterintuitive. However, in this time of ongoing, persistent burnout, it has the power of relevancy. As Dr. Stephen Ilardi, a psychologist at the University of Kansas, has written, “Human beings were never designed for the poorly nourished, sedentary, indoor, sleep-deprived, socially-isolated, frenzied pace of 21st-century life.”

Certainly, we can do better. Managers who adopt the 85% rule as their new mindset can help to reduce this frenzy while actually improving their team’s performance.


Take the first step towards transforming your remote work culture by requesting a free demo assessment from Great People Inside.

Our team of experts will guide you through the assessment process, showcasing the effectiveness and value of our tailored solutions for your organization.

During the demo, you will have the opportunity to explore the comprehensive features and functionalities of our psychometric assessments, experiencing firsthand how they can empower your HR strategies and drive positive outcomes. From personality assessments to cognitive abilities and team dynamics evaluations, our assessments provide valuable insights to enhance talent management and foster inclusive remote work environments.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to test the power of unbiased HR solutions. Request your free demo assessment from Great People Inside today and embark on a journey of fair and effective talent management in the remote work era.

Together, we can unlock the true potential of your remote teams and achieve remarkable success.Request a Free Demo Assessment.

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Price Increases & Why You Should Tell Your Customers

Covid restrictions are lifting in some parts of the world and the economy is booming in some sectors. Some labour and material costs are rising due to shortages, as is customer demand. Many brands have a high pricing power at the moment, making price hikes almost inevitable. Brand managers may be clued in on the size of their price increase, but it’s no easy matter to communicate this unwelcome news to customers.

Many companies, and even entire industries, routinely raise prices without ever telling customers. In the consumer-packaged goods space, for instance, it is common practice to reduce quantity (the grammage of a package, item count, etc.) and maintain the price. This increases the per-unit amount paid by shoppers but keeps the more visible package price unchanged. Alternatively, brands may cut down on trade promotions and other forms of discounting, raising prices indirectly. For instance, when faced with a shortage and soaring prices for chicken, KFC recently removed in-store promotions for its crowd-pleasing $30 fill-up bucket.

Whatever the reason for your price increase, how you communicate the news is just as important as planning the increase itself. Your communications need to provide clients with detailed information, address questions and concerns, and reinforce your value as their chosen service provider. 

However, these below-the-radar options are unavailable for products sold with subscriptions, leases, or contracts. In these cases, the manager must communicate to customers that prices have increased before the next billing cycle. This task is mined with pitfalls. When performed poorly, the news can lead to undesirable outcomes like customer complaints, social media outrage, and even worse, having to walk back the price increase, or losing customers altogether.

To avoid such fiascos and to blunt customer resentment, here are three actions that managers should take when communicating a price increase. They are backed by evidence found in academic research and shared experiences from working with companies.

Call the action what it is: a price increase

In emails and letters to customers, well-loved brands such as Netflix, Microsoft, Sling, and YouTube TV have all referred to a price increase as “updating price” or “adjusting price” in the past. This is common practice because managers are naturally reluctant to tell customers they are raising prices. While this may seem like a small thing, euphemistic messaging can cause serious harm, fraying the relationship with loyal customers. Decades worth of consumer psychology research has consistently found that attempts to obfuscate bad news rarely pay off for brands. Customers know that brands are trying to influence their opinions and behaviour and appreciate it when they use helpful, transparent, and informative influence methods.

Authenticity and honesty matter to customers, especially for bad news. When a brand uses a euphemism to convey a price increase, it does not distract customers or dilute the negative impact of the news, as managers may believe. Instead, it arouses suspicion, making recipients more vigilant and critical of the information contained in the announcement. Some customers may interpret the euphemistic phrasing as talking down to them. It may stoke indignation in others, leading to venting on social media and the potential to snowball into widespread anger. Even customers who are on the brand’s side may feel that they are being deceived. Where communicating price increases, it is best to call it what it is: a price increase.

Avoid apologising & over-explaining

Increasing prices is a standard part of running a growing business, and enables a company to continually provide better services over the long term. Rate fluctuations naturally follow a company’s growth plan. Nobody can grow by staying static. While it can be tempting to provide long-winded explanations and apologies for increasing your rates, giving too much information can take away from the key message you’re trying to communicate and ultimately confuse your clients. In addition, apologising could send a signal that the price increase will negatively impact your clients and/or that you’re not confident in the increased value you’re providing. 

When communicating a price increase to customers, ensure that your messaging only contains essential information and avoid adding unnecessary details. Don’t be afraid to own your decision! 

Offer plenty of advance notice

Although price increases are an expected part of doing business, it is important to give your clients sufficient time to process the information and potentially look at other service providers offering lower or competitive rates. (Depending on the significance of the increase, your clients may be required to secure additional approval or funding to continue to do business with you – especially if the business is facing challenges.)

To help your clients feel valued and give them time to make any necessary changes on their end, provide as much notice as possible before the price increase will come into effect. If you’re able to provide a few months’ notice, consider following up with a reminder closer to the effective date (either via email or over the phone) so the price change – and any consequential business changes – doesn’t turn into a last-minute disaster. 

Prove that the Price Increase Is for the Customers

The most effective price increase communications are customer-centric. They provide a value narrative — a vivid and compelling story for why the price is being increased that focuses on customer value. As an example, when United Airlines raised prices of its United Club membership, the company provided this explanation:

“To provide a more productive and relaxing experience, we’re investing more than $100 million in renovating existing locations and building new spaces with expanded seating areas, more power outlets and upgraded Wi-Fi. We’re also investing in a brand new complimentary food menu that you can now find at most of our hub locations across the U.S. and will be available soon at the rest of our locations.”

This explanation tells United Club members that prices are increasing to give them more benefits they’ve been asking for. A compelling value narrative establishes the sequence of actions for the price increase. It starts with customer feedback, then leads to identifying unmet needs, is followed by a significant investment by the brand, which results in new features, and finally culminates in the delivery of benefits that customers value.

As the United Airlines communication illustrates, the value narrative is concise — only a few sentences long. But it provides a credible explanation for the price increase that resonates with core customers. Most importantly, it places the customer at the centre of the price increase story, linking the price increase to substantial added customer value. A well-crafted value narrative conveys to customers that the brand has undertaken the effort to understand how its customers derive value and factored this knowledge into the pricing process.

At its essence that managers should approach the unpleasant task of communicating a price increase to customers with the same degree of sincerity, attention to detail, and customer focus that they bring to other brand-building projects like introducing new features or extending product lines. Such effort will be rewarded with a price increase that sticks and customers that feel like valued partners of an authentic brand with their interests in mind.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

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How Will Technology Shape HR in the Future

In our present times, there is an increasingly high interest for investment in HR technology. According to a study done by CB Insights, in 2016, there have been over $1.96 billion invested in start-ups that exclusively dealt with HR tech. Workplaces around the world are continuously changing due to technology. The tech revolving around HR is there to automate and streamline practices in order for the department and company to become the definition of efficiency, high performance and cost-effectiveness.

The biggest challenges for HR stem from recruiting and hiring, thus, applications have come to life in order to save the employer and employee’s lives.

Artificial Intelligence in Recruitment

In today’s competitive job market, around 75% of CV’s are being screened out. Furthermore, the HR department loses numerous hours on resumes from unqualified people. Losing so much precious time represents one of the biggest challenges for HR. This is one area where technology may solve the problem. Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the front foot in regards to developing specific HR tech. Recruiting and AI fit perfectly together due to the simple fact that AI demands huge amounts of data and multi-national companies have resumes by the millions in their databases. Going through such a large database is exhausting for a person, but with the help of AI the process of screening can be done rapidly and offer a compelling list of candidates based on job requirements by means of simply grading them from best to worst. By using AI for the screening process, you might save the company up to 75% of screening costs.

Schedule and outreach automation

The interest in automating the recruiting process is continuously rising. On average, it takes 41 days for a company to fill in an available role in their ranks. On LinkedIn, there is a reported 11% rise in the volume of hirings this year; however, only 26% of recruiters have a positive headcount. Discovering top talent in today’s world is hard enough and recruiters require automation to intelligently pick their candidates.

Automation can be helpful in many ways. Recruiters can automate their calendars and email to send requests to candidates that have been identified as good matches through the use of the AI screening tool, so recruiters don’t have to deal with B-list candidates.

Training and Testing through Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality simulates the environment surrounding us which can be controlled through our body movements. In a survey organised by Universum, employees working at various companies believe that in the next 10 years VR will become an integral part of their workplace. VR will be of tremendous help with testing and training. Recruiters can use this technology in order to assess a candidate’s skills and abilities.

In a survey conducted by Korn Ferry, it has been discovered that 39% of employers deal with high employee turnover rates in the first year due to mismatch. VR could be massive for the HR industry, because it could help reduce turnover by providing candidates with a realistic view of what the job actually consists of and get to understand the company culture as well. The medical industry could greatly benefit from VR. Onboarding and training could be completed by residents in the trauma and emergency sections of the hospital, where the stakes are always high.

Productivity and Engagement through Wearables

As mentioned in a previous article, one of the biggest HR trends from 2017 is employee engagement. In order to nurture it in employees, employers have started tracking their behaviours so that they can interact and communicate better at work. For example, at Microsoft, there are digital employee badges that monitor employees’ movements, who they spend their time with at and many more. This type of tech collects data which is processed and then given to employers in order to understand their coworkers and how they communicate, how to better optimise the office space and manage the dynamics of the team. This could potentially lead to a better organisation and collaboration within the company.

There are also rumours that in the not so distant future, wearable technology could lead to insights in emotions and personality during screening or interviewing.

Great People Inside provides easy-to-use tools and processes to attract, assess, match, select, onboard, manage, develop, benchmark and maintain workforces anywhere in the world.

Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation, can be a very challenging task. It requires deep knowledge of your own organisation’s culture and keen understanding of the candidate’s personality, strengths, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you find employees who can flourish and reach the highest performance required to constantly bring your company forward.

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Productivity vs. Efficiency – What Are the Differences?

In any given organisation, productivity and efficiency are highly regarded. Most managers and employees get their feedback based on these two factors. But what exactly do we mean when we say productivity or efficiency? Apparently there are some questions around this topic that haven’t been answered yet.

In order to explain the differences between productivity and efficiency, we must first understand what they exactly mean. To put it in simpler terms, we are talking about differences between quantity and quality. It is nearly impossible to obtain 100% quality, while having productivity levels up at maximum. There should be a middle ground in order to optimise your results.

Both productivity and efficiency are absolutely crucial for building a fantastic work ethic. If you manage to learn how to handle both of them and what makes them distinctly important, you and your business will thrive. As a beginner, you may be tempted to focus too much on efficiency and although this isn’t a bad thing to do, understanding the key variables between efficiency and productivity is imperative.

Given the complexity of this issue, insight is required on what these two factors actually are.


At its very core, productivity shows you the rate at which products are being developed or a task is being completed.  When you are measuring productivity things get a little more complex than that. You have to take into account whether it’s physical or office work, if the job requires a certain quality factor or the impact a specific industry’s requirements may have on its workers. Nonetheless, productivity is an integral part of any successful company.


Efficiency is all about the comparison between what is really being produced or performed with what can be produced taking into account the same amount of resources, such as: money, time and labour. In simpler terms, efficiency measures whether there is any waste in your company. Depending on the industry you work in, efficiency may be more desirable than productivity, but usually their importance is proportionate.

Efficiency vs. Productivity

Everyone wants to be as productive as possible, but there are always problems of various sorts that keep us from getting the job done. Firstly, don’t waste more time than necessary when completing a task. Try and set your own rhythm and pace and stick to it. Try and write down every step necessary in order to complete a certain task and follow that process religiously. Once you have the whole process set in stone, you will see that the amount of time you require will steadily decrease.

Many people ask if it is possible to be productive and efficient at the same time and the answer is yes. All you have to do is analyse the task at hand and try and find out what it requires more; whether it is quantity or quality.

It all comes down to the importance of the task. As an example, let’s talk about employee enquiries towards the HR department. We all know they must be dealt with in a respectable amount of time. This type of task is considered to be more on the productive side, due to the fact that it is the same process over and over again, with the same forms and documentation that need to be filled out every time. You can finish all the enquiries quickly and with complete certainty that their quality is top notch as long as you deal with them in the correct manner.

With efficiency tasks, most often than not they do not have a precise and by the book approach. These tasks obviously require more time and a high level of due diligence. In this scenario, quality trumps quantity. Of course, every task has a deadline. But if you happen to have the misfortune of dealing with it poorly, it doesn’t necessarily matter too much. You should always work at your full potential, but given the fact that the assignment doesn’t have a methodological way of dealing with it, you have some wiggle room and the possibility to improve it.

As mentioned earlier in the article, it is very important for both productivity and efficiency to be part of your workflow. It provides you with time, expertise and discipline in order to handle distinct assignments. Balancing productivity and efficiency may seem troublesome at first, but once you find it, certain tasks will stop being such a burden on you.

In conclusion, one more idea that is important to remember is this: never sacrifice your work. If you need to do good, solid work then don’t rush it by any means, and when you are looking for quantity don’t get yourself lost in too many details. With this in mind, you can accomplish anything you want. Do the work you have to do the way it was meant to be done and never compromise. It is essential you know and understand the differences between these two practices in order to ensure your work never has to suffer again.

Great People Inside provides easy-to-use tools and processes to attract, assess, match, select, onboard, manage, develop, benchmark and maintain workforces anywhere in the world.

We help you find the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation. It requires deep knowledge of your own organisation’s culture and keen understanding of the candidate’s personality, strengths, interests, work style and other characteristics. The GR8 Productivity Gap tool is excellent at showcasing the evolution of any given employee over time. By contrasting two assessments made before and after training, it allows you to analyse both your employees’ development and their involvement in the process as well.




Algorithm vs. Human Instinct

Everyone wants to have the best people in the right positions. But how exactly can you accomplish this?

This is where HR steps in. Most people underestimate its importance, but studies have shown the great hidden impact that great HR can have on any organisation.

Watson Wyatt surveyed 405 publicly traded companies of all types, posing 72 wide-ranging questions on everything from training to workplace culture to communications. In order to come up with a so-called Human Capital Index (HCI) score for each company, a statistical formula was applied (HCI measures how well an organisation makes use of the ability of an individual to perform. A higher human capital index indicates better management of human capital by the organisation. It is measured on a scale of 100). Then the subject companies were sorted into three HCI-rating categories: low, medium, and high. The companies in the high-HCI group delivered a 103 percent total return to shareholders over a five-year period, compared to 53 percent for low-HCI and 88% for medium-HCI companies.

While psychometric testing and performance prediction have evolved considerably over the past 100 years, their value is often under appreciated. In this article from,  two critical lessons from this broad field of research are highlighted. Namely, research on performance prediction has taught us the importance of choosing the right people and using the right tools to do so.

As it is mentioned in the article, selecting the right candidates is an important goal, but we must not forget about the one with equal importance – screening out undesirable candidates. The consequences of choosing the wrong people can be extremely detrimental for the company, as they lead to increased turnover rates, higher recruitment costs, and training expenses, along with lost productivity and decreases in morale among all employees. The high costs associated with replacing poorly performing individuals make it all the more important to identify and select the best performers in the first place.

This is where you have to ask yourselves: on what should I base my decision when selecting a new candidate? Human instinct or a pre-employment assessment system? The thing is – people are very good at identifying what exactly it’s needed for a certain position in their company and at extracting information from the candidates, but they are doing poor at interpreting the results. The analysis made by Harvard Business Review (HBR) on 17 studies of applicant evaluations shows that a simple equation outperforms human decisions by at least 25%. This is valid for any situation with a large number of candidates – no matter if the job is on the front line, middle management, or in the C-suite.

There are also several other benefits to the company that an employment evaluation system can bring. It provides leaders with valuable information not only about their candidates, but also about their existing employees. This helps you identify their development needs and their strongest abilities, which you can improve, based on the given feedback.

This doesn’t mean that you should completely remove the human judgment from the equation.

A great way to make the best decisions would be to use exclusively the assessment systems in order to narrow down the number of possible candidates to only a few before you involve any human judgment. Afterwards, you can make the final decision by consulting with the managers that you trust the most.

In order for the assessments to be successful, there are certain rules that must be respected:

  • Understanding the importance of the assessment process and it’s role in identifying the performance levels can lead to the success or failure of the process
  • Respecting the methodology suggested and agreed upon by the company leads to maintaining the objectivity, regardless of who is being assessed
  • Encouraging employees to get involved in a permanent self assessment process and ask for feedback. This leads to self-motivation and engagement.
  • Follow up the assessment. The assessed employee and the assessor will meet for a follow up session to analyse and discuss results, certain situations and evaluate the potential solutions for the identified problems, which leads to mid-term and long-term development.

 If you need more information about how the assessment system works, get in touch with a consultant now!