Power to the People
Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Paul Freudenberg
Recently, our industry has undergone what could modestly be called a major reorganization. The forces behind these changes run the gamut from the saturation of the Internet to the decline of the stock market, and everyone is struggling to catch up. Companies have restructured their sales and support networks in an effort to adapt to this shifting business landscape, often with mixed results. In the wake of this corporate sea change, many valuable assets, not the least of which is the human element, have been largely left adrift. What's missing from today's corporate thinking? What is absent from the way companies make employee assessments? Is there a role you might take in putting things back on track?
Ultimately, every business is judged by two simple factors: expenses and income. A business is deemed successful based on its ability to generate more output (profit, widgets) than the sum of its parts. That is to say, the total output of all employees is greater than the expenses involved in the activity at hand.
Companies achieve this state through good management decisions, and top managers are rewarded with a salary based on the additional profits their tactics have presumably brought in. There are items that are easier to manage than others. Tangible assets such as inventory, expenses, cash on hand, and equipment all fit nicely into spreadsheets and therefore lend themselves to easy reconciliation. Human contribution, on the other hand, is still a nebulous area. In manufacturing, we know we need a certain number of production people with some level of experience to yield the number of widgets we aim to turn out. But what about how many sales/marketing people it takes to promote and deliver those same widgets?
There are direct and indirect contributions every employee makes to the work environment. Making sure you take both kinds of contribution into account will ensure accurate assessment of the individual's true value. An example of a direct contribution would be the employee's ability to regularly sell beyond his or her quota. An indirect contribution might be the fact that he or she has a positive attitude that spreads throughout the company.
Management's time is best spent identifying those individuals who are critical to the operation. Those employees who exhibit a special understanding of their role in the business should be invested in further to maximize their potential contributions to the organization.
In order to do this, a means of assessment must be created that incorporates elements of basic human resources but also includes criteria that are business or industry specific. Many management texts cover this concept and give formulaic examples of how to create special matrices to that end, but much of the material on the subject ignores areas of personal contribution such as:
How many years of direct experience does the employee have in the field(s) of interest?
An employee's dependability and devotion to the company goes far beyond just showing up for work every day.
Any company that invests in an employee over time makes an investment in that individual's intellectual property.
In a sales or information-based business, positive contact with the clients and prospective clients is key. It is a pure numbers game. How many of the right people has the employee proven effective with?
Critical and strategic thinking
When a problem arises, what are the qualities of the people who handle the situation in stride? Can they handle the situation by applying the overall corporate tactic to a specific issue without deferring to a higher authority?
We've all been there. That day when you could not have done your job without the help of a dedicated customer support person. It could be someone from tech support giving you the replacement part number or the sales rep who brings that vital piece of information or provides a demonstration of the latest gear. When was the last time you came to the aid of that hard-working individual? Let someone who has helped you know they made a difference. Write a letter. Make a call.
Our business is still one primarily based on information and relationships. We rely on quality people to bring us valuable information on the tools that help us do our job. As corporations keep on gobbling up and then squeezing every last drop of profit out of bright and innovative companies, the drive that once fueled these businesses will continue to decline. Until there is a ledger line added to the corporate account books for human value, the otherwise penny-pinching firm will always fall short of delivering the real goods.
Paul Freudenbergis the sales and marketing director for L-Acoustics US.