Putting Our People First

What is most valuable in an organisation has changed over time.

Not long ago, it was capital – that scare resource that gave those with it an advantage over the competition.

Early entrepreneurs employed capital in agriculture and industry for profit and growth.

International corporate empires were built in ensuing years, often making their sheer size impossible to compete with.

But even a fleeting glance at the global landscape today reveals a vastly different picture.

Many of the largest entities did not exist a decade or two ago and they far surpass some of those old behemoths…and their numbers are growing.

Starting small, often based on a single idea or innovation (that quickly captured the world’s attention) and rapidly growing to billion dollar enterprises such as Facebook, Netflix, Instagram, Atlassian, and Canva!

For every one of these organisations – success was derived from its people and their ideas. The critical success factor today is no longer just capital, size, structures or processes.

Most importantly it is not from the top! Instead it is people at the lower levels of an organisation, particularly at the coalface, that are becoming its most valuable resource.

Yet, despite how important people are in organisations – many are either disengaged or unhappy at work. According to Gallup, less than a third are engaged and at least half quit because of bad managers.

This in an age when people are more transient and the war for talent is greater than ever before.

Interestingly, 70% report that managers are responsible for how engaged they feel at work. Management must therefore quickly learn to meaningfully engage with them to ensure success or at least survival.

There are three key ways this can be achieved:

Culture & Values

The 2018 word of the year was ‘toxic’ – referenced in part by the perilous environments in our work place.

In most underperforming organisations, if management are not the perpetrators, they are certainly guilty of doing little or nothing to help.

Surely, we have reached a point where every organisation and its leadership must take seriously their obligation to create and nurture a safe, productive and empowering workplace.

Not a nicely crafted statement that hangs on a wall – but a set of behaviours that are practiced everywhere all the time.

Good manners, consistent and truthful communication and an intolerance of bad-behaviour are the very basic expectations.

Maximising Strengths

Managers must invest a lot more time with their people. There are few things more important than understanding your people’s strengths. Working together to maximise them and to make their weaknesses irrelevant.

Managers must also understand how people perform as individuals and with each other, and continually nurture the team for optimal performance.

Finally, maximising strengths requires a focus on learning and development. Not just on the technical and cerebral side, but in creating environments that stretch people to perform to their optimum without leaving them burnt-out, vulnerable or setting them up for failure.

All of these require genuine empathy, humility, courage and effort. Traits that are mandatory for anyone who is responsible for others.

Contribution to Purpose

Finally, people want to know that they have an alignment with the organisation’s purpose, how their work contributes to it, and to be engaged in the ongoing shaping of that purpose.

Financial remuneration is no longer the only motivation for work. The number of volunteers and volunteer hours are increasing globally.

People want to find meaning at work.

They want to know how their expertise and hard work impact the organisation.

And they want their learnings and intelligence gained from interacting with the customer, the non-customer, the competitor, the market and the technology to be used to ensure the organisation is constantly adapting to the fast-paced world it exists in.