“The one thing competitors can't quickly access is the brains of your work force.”
Bingo! That's exactly what I've been telling my clients for years. And since the day I read that quote by Susan Meisinger SPHR (former President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management), I've shared it again and again. She nailed it beautifully.
I don't care if we're discussing your need to increase sales, reduce waste, improve quality, reduce cycle time or develop a new product line; it all starts with your employees. If your employees don't realize their input—regardless of their position—is important, you are at a huge competitive disadvantage. Why? Your competitors can quickly reverse-engineer your products and easily duplicate your services. However, what they can't quickly do, is establish a pool of employees who are skilled, knowledgeable about not only their jobs but of their industry. Your competitors can not quickly develop an employee pool who are willing to provide input to help their company succeed. That effort takes time and a great deal of devotion from the top.
I'm currently working with a manufacturing firm that has dramatically transformed its management style over the past 15 months. As a result, it's become a much stronger company. It has moved from the typical patriarchal, domineering type of management, to one that is vision-oriented and values the input and ideas for changes provided by the employees. Management now provides guidance, structure, and support. What once was an organization that realized high error rates, 200+% employee annual turnover rates, and overall morale in the dumper, is now an organization with employees who show up early for work, who stop the company president in the hall with ideas, and who feel comfortable sharing alternative strategies. The company has realized 20% growth this past year when others in the industry were laying personnel off. Why? They focused on developing the asset that no other employer in the area and no other competitor was willing to focus on—their people. This client realized that if they wanted to stop fighting the same production, financial, and personnel issues they'd been fighting for years, they had to focus on the one asset they'd taken for granted for years—their people. Besides, management didn't have all the answers, but there were without doubt numerous ideas residing with the rest of the employees!
By providing better orientation training and on-going cross-training, including employees in problem-solving projects, teaching them how to work through the projects, and establishing standard operating procedures, my client has reduced employee turnover 50%, reduced errors to less than 3%, and reduced cycle times by 40%. Hmmm, increased employee retention, increased quality, and increased production as a result of focusing on employees. That's one heck of a business strategy.
If you're tired of working the way you currently are and feel as if you're beating your head against the proverbial brick wall, maybe it's time to stop. If what you've been doing isn't working—Stop. Instead of trying to develop your core competitive advantage by making better widgets, why not focus on developing better employees? Smarter, more engaged employees will help you develop better widgets. Why not focus your efforts for the most impact?
Focus on your company's real competitive advantage. Focus on your people.
Copyright MMXVI, MMIII - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about me on LinkedIn!