Your business is the sum of all the people who work within and with it. Its success rests with how well you engage with them to draw their combined talents and efforts to the forefront. Fail to do this well and your business will never achieve its potential.
Active Knowledge Question:
Do You Consider Employees A Cost Centre, A Resource Or Both?
In today’s marketplace when you think of employees from a competitive perspective, you should be including everyone who works within and with your business. It is likely a vast and diverse community with many different backgrounds, cultures, needs and working relationships. What you are interested in is mustering the combined talent and effort of all those who work for your business in whatever capacity.
And I would recommend characterising this relationship as one of creating and building connections rather than managing or contracting someone to ‘work’ for you.
We typically define people within a business by their position, role and to whom they report. This is a contractual way of describing the business’s legal connection with a person. It becomes about rights and entitlements for each party. And while in one sense this is important, it does little to muster any competitive energy and instead puts the ‘employee’ in one corner and the business in another.
People are at their best when relationships are great. If you want the best out of someone, then build great relationships.
And therefore, start thinking connections and relationships if you want to build a successful business, and try to keep contractual terms at the bottom of your list.
Competitiveness Through Employees
A cornerstone of being able to build connections is to believe that the competitiveness of your business rests in the efforts of your ‘employees’– remember this is everyone who works within and with your business.
However, I am not sure that many leaders believe that employees are the cornerstone of their competitiveness. I think many leaders still believe their competitive strength rests in a more tangible context. That their strength lays more in the physical location of their stores, the online platforms or communities they have built, brand, physical assets, legal rights, code, IP etc. See these are things that a business can legally own and therefore can be controlled, owned and sold. People can’t be as readily controlled and sold and hopefully never considered as owned.
What is sometimes forgotten is that there was a person who conceived and founded the business. There were people who identified the store locations and established them. People who created and maintained the online platforms and communities, developed the brands, built the physical assets, created the IP and the rights, wrote the code, and so the list can continue.
Without the human element in creating, sustaining and evolving the business, and its competitiveness, there would be no business. Your ‘employees’ represent the source of your competitiveness, and there is a symbiotic relationship that exists that must be nurtured between leadership and ‘employees’ if that competitiveness is to grow. This is a partnership dependent on trust.
Wages As A Cost Centre
The other tripping point in mustering the combined talent and effort is the dominant paradigm that wages are a cost, usually a material cost, that must be minimised if profits are to grow. It is one of the fundamental rules of the profit-first approach in business. Look at any business that talks about improving profits and you will usually see redundancies and staffing reductions to reduce costs.
Are ‘employees’ a cost or the most important source of competitiveness in your business? Many would say both, but I don’t believe that you can effectively act in this way as each answer is at different ends of the spectrum and require opposing approaches. You cannot say that they are a valuable source of competitiveness and then treat them in every way as a cost centre to be minimised.
Trust will never be formed under this approach, and therefore real engagement that activates the combined talent and effort will never occur.
The starting point in ‘mustering’ is to change the paradigm of what employees represent in your business. Only then can you move forward to establish a bond of trust and after that engagement.
Employees Are Human
The final aspect of ‘mustering’ is to see your employees as humans and not someone that is paid to do a task or worse a machine. Your goal should always be one of ‘the best, working with the best, at their best’ at all levels of the business. No matter what role someone may have, you would like them to contribute all they can – talent and effort – in working in your business.
At the start and end of the day, the amount of effort and talent someone contributes is at their discretion or more correctly in accord with their level of motivation. To nurture and grow this contribution requires that you see them as human and approach the way your business engages with employees in the correct manner.
Seeing the human dynamic in your business means, and will allow you to understand:
- Purpose rather than work.
- Habits rather than processes.
- Motive rather than monetary rewards.
- Relationships rather than hierarchical structures.
- Character traits rather than competencies.
The competitive strength of your business and its ability to outcompete everyone in your chosen marketplace is represented by the sum of the human talent and effort you can muster and focus. Viewing your employees as the source of competitiveness and not a cost centre, seeking to build connections of trust and engagement and also viewing your entire business as a community of people, is the basis of mustering its full potential.
An entirely new level of performance.
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All the best in the success of your business,