In my experience as a global business consultant and former VP of Operations, I’ve yet to find a business with lousy people practices and successful long-term business results. Instead, I’ve found several mediocre businesses with exceptional people who thrive. Undoubtedly, people are your #1 asset.
Even though I typically am called into clients to elevate business performance derived through topics such as supply chain and operations management, collaborative inventory programs (such as Sales & Operations Planning) and ERP selection and project management projects, the 80/20 of my time and success goes back to people. Do you focus on people as if they are your #1 asset?
I’ve used Profit through People as a core brand since my consulting practice’s inception as I valued people and their impact on the bottom line. Recently, I’ve re-branded and created additional service lines/ brands yet Profit through People remains intact. Similarly, I’ve noticed that my best clients keep people forefront in their mind.
I’ve found the following topics to be of upmost importance when it comes to people: 1) Leadership. 2) Culture. 3) Change management. 4) Performance management
- Leadership: As my HR mentor used to say, “It begins & ends with leadership.” Thus, I had to give this the first position on the list! She was unequivocally correct. In consulting, while you are working on a particular project, you absorb what is going on around you. Thus, you’re in the interesting position of observing various approaches and seeing the results. Solid leaders develop strong teams and deliver results. Weak leaders surround themselves with less-capable leaders who struggle and fight fires.
To sum it up, leaders need to think about what they say, what they do, how they’re perceived etc. Everyone is watching and will follow suit. Do you value employees who go the extra mile for the customer? Or do you value employees who help to achieve an internal metric while asking the customer to hold? Do you address poor performance or sweep it under the rug? One of my most interesting observations is that employees are energized to perform when they see leaders making tough choices – and sticking to them. If you think it’s swept under the rug and forgotten, it’s not!
- Culture: I used to lump culture with people in my mind until I realized that too many companies ran straight into the wall, even with great people, if the executives didn’t deliberately consider culture. What set of beliefs governs behavior in your company? Does your culture support what you’d like to achieve?
Changing culture can take time; however, it is important to think it through and deliberately manage it. Most often, I find that employees aren’t the roadblock with culture change; it’s the leaders. Which metrics are you tracking? Who do you recognize? Do you find exemplars to help instill the culture? Or do you tend to seek out the familiar?
- Change management: In today’s new normal business environment, volatility is the new nom. Thus, change will become more commonplace – sales peaks and valleys are typical, customers lose contracts, suppliers go out of business, natural disasters occur, political turmoil extends the supply chain etc. How do we manage change successfully?
In my experience, people aren’t afraid of change. Instead, they are afraid of understanding what the new roads mean and how it will affect them. Will they be able to attain the skills? What happens if they make a mistake? How will they work through problems? Who is on the team? The more you help define the path forward, the better. Additionally, if you’ve created the right environment and culture to support change, you’ll be exponentially more successful.
- Performance management: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention performance management. It is the most overlooked “people priority” in organizations today. Do you sit down with your folks to set goals? Do you discuss potential roadblocks? Support systems? Do you track progress? Do you provide immediate positive and corrective feedback? How often do you meet with your employees? I find that managers and leaders complain about their people yet say they have no time to sit down for 30 minutes on a weekly basis – how can this be? Certainly not if you see people as your #1 asset?!
Those executives and companies that prioritize people succeed. Profit is NOT the main focus yet profit always follows. It might be counterintuitive; however, I’ve yet to have a “labor dollar” think up a multi-million dollar idea whereas people often do!