Friday, January 9, 2015

Cutting Off Our Nose to Spite Our Face

I'm sure you're all familiar with the phrase, "Cutting off your nose to spite your face." Nowhere is that more evident than companies that do not invest in and grow their talent pool.

Managers carefully consider investments in facilities, equipment and technology and spend millions to purchase what they feel they need to make their businesses more efficient, their services more effective, or their product/service more appealing in the marketplace. But mention spending money on people, and the wall goes up.

I can understand some of that: it is hard to quantify exactly what people bring to the table in terms of profitability. With few exceptions, companies make no attempt to figure that out--it doesn't show up on the balance sheet. People are reflected as a cost only.

The excuse I hear most often however is, if I invest in an employee and they leave, I have lost that investment. And they are absolutely right. Which leads to the questions: Why do they leave and how can I prevent it?

We don't have space/time to tackle all of that today, but let's start the discussion with taking a purely anecdotal approach--we can flesh out some hard data in future posts. Have you left a company because of poor customer service? Do you stay with one company over another because you trust the people you interact with? Do you have some employees who work circles around others in your company? Are there key people that would leave a gaping hole in your capabilities if they left?

My guess is you answered 'Yes" to one or more of these questions. Probably all of them. Which points out the importance of people in your organization. The people you have, their capabilities and their interactions with your customers directly impact your bottom line.

When we buy new equipment or facilities, we carefully evaluate our options. We make sure we have the right environment and supplies to ensure we get the best performance from our investment. And we provide ongoing maintenance and occasional refurbishment.

We treat our people differently. We often have a poor methodology to determine the type of people we need (I am not talking just technical skills here--I am focusing on the entire package of competencies.) We don't invest the time or effort into the hiring process we should. We don't have a process to get employees up to speed as quickly as possible and we don't invest to keep their skills sharp. We use them up, throw them out (or they leave) and we repeat the cycle. So because we don't want to take a chance we will spend some money and the employee leave, we purposely leave ourselves open to poor customer service, poor quality, and low productivity. This is classic cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face mentality. You're planning for mediocrity, and you'll absolutely get mediocrity.

But as a consumer, I'm not looking for mediocrity, especially for products and services that are important to me. I need vendors I can rely on. Are you one?

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