Tag Archive for people

Who Do You Think Drives Those Metrics?

Earlier this week, I was at CUNA’s ACUC in San Diego, where I had the privilege of being a panelist in a session on how doing good motivates the millenial generation, as well as participating in a mentor session for a group from The Cooperative Trust. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate being able to chat with folks about the stuff I’m passionate about, but this actually marks the second conference I’ve spoken at in the last few months where I had someone approach me at some point after a session and tell me, in one way or another, that they didn’t buy what I was saying.

I’ll recount for you how one of the conversations went. This random conference attendee had been in a session where I was talking about the importance of healthy organizational culture and how I felt like it was potentially a huge competitive advantage. Most of the session, this attendee sat with his arms folded, and from time to time he’d visibly shake his head back and forth during parts that I guess he found particularly disagreeable. Afterward, he approached me and said the following:

Random Conference Attendee: “Thanks for the session you just did. I can tell you’re passionate about the people side of business.”

Me: “Thanks for coming, and yeah, I love the human side of business.”

Random Conference Attendee: “The thing is, I think you’re wrong about something.”

Me: “I’m sure I am, but which thing are you referring to?”

Random Conference Attendee: “The part where you go on and on about how it’s people that drive business outcomes more than anything else.”

Me: “Well, yes, I believe that. Don’t you?”

Random Conference Attendee: “Not really. I actually don’t think that’s true at all. My organization isn’t people-driven, it’s metrics-driven.”

Me: “Ah. Well tell me, who do you think drives those metrics?”

(Silence. Fake crickets chirping.)

Even people who are “metrics-driven” would have to admit that without people to drive those metrics, their business would be nowhere. And it’s commonly accepted within the larger business world that engaged employees working within healthy organizations generally do better work than disengaged employees in toxic workplaces. It just makes sense.

The weird part is that even though most people understand this, and nod in agreement when someone talks about it, there are so many businesses out there that still, well, suck at the human side of business and frankly don’t even seem to give it much of a second thought. Even within the credit union space–which is home for me–it’s not uncommon to find boards of directors and executives who think of all this employee enagement and culture talk is fluffy nonsensical crap.

And then they wonder why they have turnover and morale problems.

And they wonder why their business isn’t doing as well as it could be.

And then they rationalize these things away and blame them on any number of things.

Tom Peters was at ACUC this past week, and toward the end of his session I tweeted a question for him to answer during the Q & A portion of the talk. Here was my question, in Twitterese:

“@tom_peters If we all nod when you say people are the most important thing, why do so many orgs still suck at the people part of biz? #ACUC”

His response is the same as mine: “It beats the hell out of me.”

People Strategy: It’s a BFD

It’s a curious thing.

So many organizations place an enormous emphasis on business strategy, and rightly so. No one’s going to argue that that shouldn’t be the case. But the weird thing is that many of those same organizations don’t have a coherent and meaningful people strategy. So while they may have a meticulous plan in place to increase profitability or whatever else, their people are almost an afterthought.

What a huge mistake.

If your business strategy doesn’t include a people strategy, you’re just simply not going to be as good as you could be. I mean, you wouldn’t wing it with other parts of your strategic plan, would you? So why would you do that with something as important as the very people that make your organization go?

Some of the number-bots call me a heretic whenever I start talking like this, and that’s fine. I love them anyway. But here’s the thing—why not build your business around people? Without people, you’d have no clients and you’d have no employees. People are kind of a big deal. As acclaimed business leader Michael Scott would say, they’re a BFD.

Too often what happens is we leave the “people stuff” to HR and call it a day. We do some token employee engagement stuff, but nothing terribly meaningful. I mean, you pay them, right? Isn’t that enough? (The answer is no, by the way.)

But listen—people drive your business, whether you’re in customer service or tech. Why any organization would wing such a critical part of their strategy is beyond me.

Like I said, it’s a curious thing.

Build People

Training and development that has some aspect of career coaching is en vogue right now. It is to the training and development world what Kanye West only thinks he is to the fashion world. Many have even started using several different names for these programs interchangeably: career coaching, mentoring, career counseling, etc. Some of these programs, while certainly well intentioned, fall short in that their focus is perhaps a bit too narrow.

You see, many training and development programs right now are focusing on developing certain skills or qualities that will enable a given individual to take the next step in a specific career path within a unique organization. That’s not bad, in and of itself. However, I think we’re missing a huge opportunity to do even more.

We need to take a more holistic approach to developing people. We need to invest in people development rather than simply training the next cog in our respective corporate machines. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t invest in position- or career-specific development. Rather, that specific development needs to be part of a larger developmental context.

Think of It as People-Building, Not “Just Training”

As you consider your training and development efforts, try to frame your thoughts a little differently. Try asking yourself what you’re building. Are you building customer service representatives? Are you building bank tellers? Are you building assembly line workers? What are you building?

The answer, of course, is that you ought to be building people. Don’t simply train people to perform tasks and nothing more. Build people. Help them first work toward understanding themselves, and further, toward accomplishing both personal and professional goals.