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Lean and Mean Is Out, Valuing People Is In!

Lean and Mean Is Out, Valuing People Is In!

Paying more attention to your customer and stockholders than to your employees will cost you money.

Companies that use resources to engage their workers and keep them committed to their products or services realize a 10% greater ROI to stockholders than companies that don't.

Experts from major corporations and consulting firms, with backing from an array of business school academics, came down heavy of the side of paying more attention to the people doing the work. They say that's essential to increasing productivity and profit. Bill Pollard, CEO of Service Master, one of the ten most respected corporations in the world, pointed out that his company has a "VP for People" who was in attendance at the conference. As Mark Nittler, VP for Software Applications at Peoplesoft, remarked in his session, "Organizations don't respond, produce or do anything — people do."

So what people-valuing activities did these business gurus suggest? Here's a half dozen worth trying:

  • Celebrate: Make it part of organizational culture to share rituals and celebrations-let people know that the frontline is as important to the success of the company as the heavy hitters at the top.
  • Atomize: Speaking of the top, make it less important. Decentralize and "atomize" (make smaller) your work units whenever possible and push decision-making power down to the people who do the work.
  • Spread It Around: Be sure that workers at all levels in the organization know how the company is doing and what impact their performance is or is not having on the bottom line. Peoplesoft's Nittler suggests creating an effective intranet system for sharing information all round, with EIPs (Enterprise Information Portals) available to be sure people have access to what they need to know.
  • Teach, Teach, Teach: Managers and leaders must first and foremost be teachers and coaches for everyone under them. Anyone who doesn't have the patience or presentation skills to develop people well (and not just leave it to HR to run periodic, easily forgotten training sessions) should not be in a position of leadership.
  • Give Feedback Constantly: It's a lot easier to see an employee perform inadequately and just groan about it, than it is to take the time to make constructive suggestions and then check back to see if the employee has learned to do it better. Time consuming or not, it's the only way to go, warned most of Conference Board's experts.
  • Be Flexible: Make it easy for people to have the time and space they need to make their lives work. This includes implementing measures such as flextime, telecommuting, job shares and small-necessity leave. Not only women, but two thirds of men are also saying they would be more productive at work were they able to more easily attend to family responsibilities and emergencies. As Joan Crockett, Sr. VP for Allstate Insurance, observed, "Flexibility is not a privilege, it's a given — we need to do it to keep good people.

The world that shaped the attitudes and work ethic of most of today's leaders could not have been more different from the world in which they find themselves now trying to manage. Many of them persist in responding to today's questions with yesterday's answers and paying mightily in terms of morale and profitability. The best way to move forward, say the Conference Board experts, is to replace "command and control" management with people-centered leadership. Former Allstate CEO Jerry Choate had the idea: "You can't lead anybody if they're not willing to go.