Time to Treat your People MORE like Machines?
Perhaps, you think that your business would really go somewhere if only you weren’t carrying those freeloaders! And you just can’t shake them. And, even if you could, who would you replace them with – it takes time to train new starters and what guarantees will there be they’ll be any better than the last lot?
They all seem to start off full of promise but the dream of employees that make a real difference to your enterprise too frequently fails to become the reality and before you know it they’re plodding along doing the bare minimum (you know – the stuff you agreed in the contract) and there’s zip that you can do about it.
But, why would they do this? You pay them after all – you give them money in return for their work.
Well, in the words of the wise, ‘Money isn’t everything.’
It probably hasn’t always been this way. Way back before the Information Age got hold, that simple trade of money for labour was straightforward enough to ensure you got exactly what you paid for: a hard day’s work in return for a few shillings. No work meant no money. Quality suffering? Nothing that a crack of a whip couldn’t sort out. I feel myself getting all misty eyed!
But that simple trade isn’t so simple any more. Money will get you a worker and (probably) a minimum level of commitment but don’t expect that’s enough to give you a competitive advantage. And, like it or not, it's not as easy to starve your employees into submission as it used to be!
To really thrive, to get ahead of your competition, your company needs commitment from its people to do more than the bare minimum. You need your people to drive your company’s innovation and growth. You need your people to go the extra mile when you have a big order to get out. Isn’t it about time that the often-heard phrase “our people are our greatest asset” became the reality rather than an off-the-cuff remark some executives have been known to reach for when trying to placate their ungrateful hordes?
Easier said than done, I know. But you needn’t be alone in this quest.
Let me ask you a question. If your business needed a very expensive piece of machinery, what consideration would you make for its upkeep? I imagine that if you were to see a significant slice of your operating costs being dedicated to its purchase, hire, etc., and you were halfway inclined towards making a profit then you would probably put a reasonably comprehensive maintenance schedule in place to ensure it stays working at its most efficient for as long as it possibly can. In other words, you would invest in its upkeep.
The thing is that, while it seems obvious to most of us when it comes to machinery, few of us think the same when it comes to, what in reality is, in the vast majority of cases, companies’ most expensive and challenging asset but also their greatest potential advantage - their people.
The word company itself suggests people associating with each other. People are at the heart of every company everywhere in the world. It is the people, people like you and your employees, that think, innovate, decide, build, manufacture, support and service to address their customers’ needs in companies, big and small, everywhere you go.
So why do we think it’s such an alien concept to invest in this most important asset??? I would guess that it’s probably historical experience that drives this kind of thinking but, as we have seen above, times have changed and new thinking is required if we want to seriously compete in the modern age.
Maximising your returns from your people is only really possible when you consciously invest in them.
And this is where Human Resources makes the difference.
If you were looking to maximise returns on your finances you would probably want to talk to a financial adviser. If, on the other hand, you were looking to maximise the returns on your business' human capital, your people, it follows that it would make sense to talk to someone who was an expert in maximising the investment in your people. We could call that person a People or a Human Capital Investment Adviser. Or we might just leave them with their current recognised descriptor - Human Resources or HR.
HR has evolved in the very recent past to meet the needs of the Information Age. Many successful companies all around the world have learnt the value of getting people in HR to help them maximise the returns on their people.
From managing their employer brand to help them attract the best candidates, to designing recruitment processes that help select the best employees, to designing remuneration packages to attract and retain the best, to performance management practices and training that helps employees understand what ‘best’ means and keeps developing them so that they continue to be the best they can be in an ever changing world, to measuring and managing engagement so that their employees want to give their best each and every day they come to work.
The list really does go on but the message is clear: if you want the best you have to invest. And if you’re going to invest then make sure you have the right people alongside you guiding you on how to make the most of your investment.