Understanding your sector
Understanding your sector

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2 Improving your performance in your current job

Using Lucy (from Section 1.5) as an example, look at how her SWOT analysis has provided her with some ideas for improving her work performance. For example, she has identified the following weaknesses in her performance:

  • I can be easily discouraged by negative feedback.
  • I am not very good at using IT effectively.
  • I can lose my temper if roused.
  • I am nervous when in front of an audience.
  • Many of my work colleagues have a degree and therefore have more potential opportunities.

These are an interesting mix of factors. Being discouraged by negative feedback is, arguably, a personality trait that many people would admit to, while not using IT effectively is a weakness that could be overcome, to some extent at least, through a training course. Similarly, although Lucy might never lose her nerves when appearing in front of an audience, with the right training she can learn how to minimise the impact of them. There is also the time factor to consider. While the concerns about IT and presenting in front of an audience might be remedied quite swiftly, her lack of a degree might require a longer-term strategic plan.

Lucy’s analysis of opportunities and threats also present her with potential ideas that might help her organisation; this is arguably another way of improving your work performance. For example, Lucy has recognised that ‘there are new markets opening up in the Far East’. She could offer to research this area for the company in order to develop some options for possible expansion. She has also spotted that ‘health trends are making walking a popular pastime for many, especially older people’ and this might present a rewarding topic for market research among her company’s older customers. Finally, the ‘major industry conference’ represents a good opportunity for her to network and obtain new contacts and ideas.

Among the threats, Lucy has identified that there is a ‘lack of good designers with the right skills’; could she investigate why this is the case or see whether this is an area in which she might seek to retrain? Her uncertainty about her manager leaving his job and his ‘possible replacement’ is clearly a worry but knowing that he is leaving gives her a chance to make some plans.

Any of these suggested actions would constitute ways of improving her performance, admittedly with different time frames. As they are based on Lucy’s analysis of both herself and the sector within which she works, they provide a useful illustration of how this knowledge can be used.

Table 2 shows what actions Lucy can take now that she has identified areas where she can improve her performance.

Table 2 Actions Lucy can take to improve her performance

Factor Possible improvement Timescale
1. I am not very good at using IT effectively. Go on an online training course. Short term
2. I am nervous when in front of an audience. Go on a company presentation skills course. Short term
3. There is a major industry conference soon where I can make new contacts. Ask to attend the conference and possibly link it with factor 4 (the new markets in the Far East). Short term
4. There are new markets opening up in the Far East. Talk to line manager about the possibility of researching this area. Medium term
5. Health trends are making walking a popular pastime for many, especially older people. Conduct market research among older customers to seek their views. Medium term
6. My line manager would like to leave his job and I am uncertain about his possible replacement. Discuss this with line manager; is there any possibility of promotion? Medium term
7. There is a lack of good designers with the right skills in the organisation. Talk to line manager about researching this area and the possibility of retraining. Long term
8. Many of my work colleagues have a degree and therefore have more potential opportunities.

Investigate degree courses relevant to my job.

Research whether company would fund this.

Long term

Activity 2 Identifying opportunities for improvement

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Look again at the SWOT analysis that you did in Activity 1. This should have helped you to identify a range of factors affecting your current situation. Think about each of these, and assess whether or not you feel they provide an opportunity for you to improve your work performance in the short, medium or longer term. Record your thoughts in the table below, in your notebook or in the Toolkit [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . The example showing the actions Lucy can take has been provided as a guide.

Table 3 Actions you can take to improve your performance

Factor Possible improvement Timescale
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Comment

Hopefully, you will have been able to select a number of factors from your SWOT analysis that might provide you with opportunities to improve your work performance, either fairly quickly or over a longer period of time. You may not be able to pursue all these, so think about how you might prioritise them in terms of: ease of implementation, potential impact, whether or not you need your manager’s or your organisation’s permission and so on.

Some of the statements that you made in your SWOT analysis might not lend themselves immediately to ways to improve your work performance. Instead, they might signal areas where you have identified possible training needs or qualifications that you might obtain; you will be looking at this area in the next section.

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