What Will Separate the Winners from Losers in the New Economy? Treating the Workforce as Talking Libraries

“Imagine if you had access to a talking library that collectively contained all the information you need to run, grow and innovate your business. Would you be excited to access that powerful resource on a daily basis and pick its brain? Would you be excited to go to where it was in your building and engage it? Of course you would”.

The new century has ushered in a new economy that is very different from anything we have experienced in the past. The 20th century’s three most reliable and trusted models to increase profits are no longer available to today’s executives. 

You cannot raise prices – No one will pay them

You cannot cut prices – You already have

You cannot easily capture new clients – Your competitors are fiercely competitive

So this leaves business owners and executives in small, medium and large companies with two choices:

1. Accept the situation and deal with shrinking profits

2. Innovate

Obviously #1 is not appealing or even acceptable. But innovation is easier said than done! Innovate where, and how? If you are like me you get sick of the experts who tell you the answer to the pressing questions facing our companies is “to innovate” and then they walk away, offering no specifics. They should have saved their breath because their solution was a non-solution in that it is too vague to help solve anything.

It is like if there were a tsunami coming in the distance and you were to ask a “tsunami expert” how to survive and they were to tell you to simply “build a boat” and then walked away. Well, without telling you how to build a boat and what tools to use their advice was pretty much worthless. While that may qualify as an answer, without specifics, it is no solution. What we need in todays challenging economy is solutions.  So I am going to offer some.

Where Should You Focus Your Innovation Efforts?

The key to continuous and profitable growth in the new economy according to Gallup, McKinsey, the Harvard School of Business and countless other experts (plus my direct experience) is to do a better job of engaging the minds and activating the motivations of the people who work with and for you; at all levels.

So, focus upon innovating in the area of increasing levels of employee engagement.

Increasing employee engagement has been proven without a doubt to have a direct impact on profitability. It also has the advantage of being largely within your control due to the fact that everyone you are trying to affect works with you. You are working with a “captive audience” who wins when you win. This is unlike the traditional 3 part profit generating model described above. In that model, for you to make more money, someone somewhere has to lose money. And anytime you can go from a win/lose model to a win/win model things happen much easier.

While many think of employee engagement as a touchy-feely tool born in the 80’s and 90’s modern executives realize that increasing employee engagement is the most effective way to increase profits in the post industrial, new “knowledge” economy.

Think about it these very simple terms: To increase employee engagement I must create an environment that results in people being intrinsically motivated to be more engaged in the act of working. They then work more. As they work more production increases – It can’t not! Then as production increases this often means efficiencies are achieved. The combination of higher production and greater efficiencies always results in more profits and more savings. – It can’t not!

The formula is really that simple. And it is proven successful every time it is properly implemented. So the better you become at using your human capital the more financial capital you will create. In fact, as you become more proficient at maximizing your human capital assets your financial assets (profits) will increase almost automatically.

Ok so that is the “What”, Now for the “How”

If we think of employee engagement in non-professional terms, all it is is creating an environment where people are not only comfortable working with you but they like working with you…as a person! This too is a pretty simple concept that, in my opinion, has been overly complicated.

I think many in management expect the employees to engage us after we do some team building exercises or have a few company functions. But it takes more than that.

Employee engagement happens when the “bosses” (a word I dislike) make a consistent effort to make a solid effort to engage the workforce initially at their level. One has to take the time to understand their world, seek their input and to show that you are interested. But beware, they may be suspicious at first. But if you mean what you are doing and keep showing up, they will begin responding in powerful ways.

However, you have to be willing to engage them not as a “boss” who tells them what to do, but as a person who is an empowered facilitator who can help them to get their work done.

If you cannot make this fundamental shift and engage your workforce as people who are smart, have insights and would love to contribute more, then you cannot expect them to engage you.

But if you do make that sustainable effort, not only will they repay the favor by engaging you more but the information and the satisfaction you get will motivate you to continue engaging them as the people they are.

Another quick tip is to STOP seeing your organization as an Org Chart and begin viewing it, and engaging it, as a “knowledge network”.

So, imagine if you had access to a talking library that collectively contained all the information you need to run, grow and innovate your business. Wouldn’t you be excited to access that powerful resource on a daily basis and pick its brain? Wouldn’t you be excited to go to where it was in your building and engage it? Of course you would.

Then once you engage that library you will see how willing it becomes to come to where you are and share its knowledge with you. And in that moment your entire business will begin rising to a whole new level. And so will your profits!

Jeffrey Deckman is the founder of Capability Accelerators. He is an expert in helping organizations to increase profits by building top leadership teams who excel at engaging the workforce. He can be reached at JDeckman@CapabilityAccelerators.com

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