We all know the world is getting more complex, global, networked and matrixed – at CEB we call it the new work environment. So what would you say are critical competencies to increase employee performance in a world like this? Most senior executives would say things like change agility, flexibility and adaptability.

Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it? Given the unprecedented volatility and near-constant change in business today, it’s no surprise that executives want employees who can adjust quickly and successfully to any situation. And yet, here at CEB we know that agility alone will not generate the performance improvements companies need to achieve their goals this year. Instead of developing agile employees, companies need to learn to develop enterprise contributors.

There are four key competency areas where we see enterprise contributors behave differently than other employees – these are the areas where our most progressive members are focusing on to increase individuals’ contribution to their organizations:

  1. Prioritization: Prioritize contributions over tasks to fulfill job description
  2. Teamwork: Gain an understanding of peers’ motivations rather than simply building relationships
  3. Organizational Awareness: Understand organizational context, not just the formal structure
  4. Problem Solving: Don’t just be receptive to change – initiate it

I had a perfect example of how an enterprise contributor thinks about change when speaking recently to one of our senior executive clients, who runs sales for a Fortune 500 company. He quoted the following wisdom to me: ‘Change is really about innovation. It’s about looking at all the hundreds of things you could do, and figuring out what the right 2 or 3 things to do actually are.’

Our research supports this view as well. When we look at the highest performers in today’s complex work environment, they don’t just react to change, they initiate it. In fact, the highest contribution to the enterprise comes not from those who manage change when it happens to them, but from those who identify problems and related necessary changes before they happenEmployees who initiate change have 43% more positive impact on their companies than those who just have the capacity to change.

In future posts we’ll explore the other three competency areas that drive enterprise contribution in more depth and explain why we’ve identified the new networked work environment as one of 3 key trends shaping HR in 2013.