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People or Profit? What if the Choice was Clear?

Is your organization facing one or more of these warning indicators?

  1. You are falling behind in key business metrics like profitability & productivity.
  2. Competitors are eating your lunch. You are slow to market with new products and services.
  3. Your customer service is in the toilet.
  4. Job openings remain unfilled.
  5. Employment is like a happy hour – come in, stay a bit and then make a fast exit.

Believe me, if you said yes, you are not alone.

And I suspect that if you did say yes, you and other leaders in your organization are working hard to fix these problems. Many are putting in new and better technology. Many are writing people out of key processes, as you feel AI sure beats HI (human intelligence). Many are asking more and more of an already strapped workforce. Most are working harder and getting fewer desired results.

My question today this: Is there an overarching root cause that, if attended to and corrected, might enable you to make progress on all fronts?

We have been inculcated (especially in the US) to put profits over people. At any cost. Too many see their people to an end. As expendable. As the first to go when times get tough. As a resource that only gets replenished by bringing fresh talent in the door, while neglecting the potential of the talent already there.

Funny thing is, is that data shows us that those who chase profit over people end up eroding the thing they covet.

There are organizations that attract and keep great employees, enable them to do their best and as a result innovate. Oh, and by the way, be profitable. Most times more profitable than their peers. * (see sources below)

It can be done, but it takes a paradigm shift.

Instead of profits at the expense of people, it is people first and then the profits will come.

I have had the good fortune to be work with and within organizations who understood that people were key to their business success. Who demonstrated, in word and action that people mattered. Who invested in their people and their skills and reaped ever-increasing returns year after year. Who celebrated the gifts and talents that each employee offered and enabled them to do their best, and even do more than they would have imagined.  Who found ways, when things got tough, to share the pain in creative ways (it does not take much creativity to slash and burn). That erred on the side of treating employees as whole human beings with complex, messy lives.

Today’s business environment requires more than employees who show up, check in and slog through the day. Creativity and innovation don’t happen when people are diminished in spirit. Speed to market requires people pulling together because they want to, not because they feel forced to.  Resilience in tough times requires trust and the willingness to band together and do tough things to get through together. Excellent customer service reflects employees who are well cared for and who want the company to succeed.

Some of today’s fastest growing and most profitable companies share this focus on carefully nurturing and investing in culture and people. A few quick quotes to make my point:

“Culture is to recruiting as product is to marketing.” The HubSpot’s Culture code

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”  – Simon Sinek, author, Start with Why

“Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur.”   – David Cummings, Co-Founder, Pardot

“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”   – Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks

If you find that your profits are missing targets, that customers are disgruntled, that employees are not able to bring their best, you might ask yourself these hard questions:

  • What type culture have we created and is it serving our highest purpose?
  • What values do we espouse, not by what we say, but by what we do day in and day out?
  • What shadow do our leaders cast? What skills do they have what skills do they need?
  • Are we serious about investing in our culture, our leadership and our people? Or do we see this work as “frivolous” or “soft” or an expense to be minimized?

Get your culture right….and the right things begin to happen.

Equip your leaders and you’ll achieve unified action toward a common goal. Invest in your people and they will be better, do better and stick around. Become people centric and the right people will line up to be a part of what you’ve created (as employees or customers).

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