These are not my words of wisdom but ones I have long agreed with. It is a quote from an excellent article and comprehensive article in Forbes by John Hagel, Suketu Gandhi and Giovanni Rodriguez, The Empowered Employee is Coming; Is The World Ready? John Hagel is co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge. Suketu Gandhi is a principal with Deloitte Consulting. Giovanni Rodriguez is a senior member of the Deloitte social-technology team, and a blogger for Forbes.
As they write, if you focus on the cost side there is only so much you can squeeze out. If you focus on the value side there are no limits. You can also focus on both if you do the value side right. In my career with both small and large consulting firms, I was pleased to be able to always focus on value by enabling employees to become more effective through learning, knowledge management, collaboration or social business. It was adding value rather than figuring out how to lay off more people or outsource. When done right it did also result in cost savings or increased revenue or both. I am not trying to claim credit for anything here. It just gave me more satisfaction with my job and I also thought it was the right thing for the client in the long run. That is what this article articulates quite well.
The authors note that, “while the ranks of the unemployed continue to swell globally, the number of unfilled jobs for skilled labor are also on the rise.” This is exactly why we need more education, organizational learning, and enterprise collaboration (aka knowledge management.) They discuss the need for the empowered employee that was one of the original goals of knowledge management and a theme that runs through all the social business efforts that are worthwhile.
They note that marketers were one of the first groups to dominate the conversation about social media in its infancy. They note that this is because customers are where the pressure is typically coming from. As customers harness the tools of the Web to gain more information about products and vendors, they are putting increasing pressure on these vendors to deliver more value at lower cost.
They are also requiring the vendors to have knowledgeable and empowered employees to talk to these empowered customers. This is not a new issue. It has just gotten magnified. I remember in 90s when call center reps would tell me that they often learned about the company’s new offers from customers calling in who had just seen them on TV or the paper.
They next offer a profound statement I will quote in its completely as I could not say it better. “Rather than treating employees as cost items that need to be managed wherever possible, why not view them as assets capable of delivering ever increasing value to the marketplace? This is a profound shift in focus. For one thing, it moves us from a game of diminishing returns to an opportunity for increasing returns. There is little, if any, limit to the additional value that people can deliver if given the appropriate tools and skill development.”
They then note that this requires a people centered enterprise than needs to adjust to meet the needs to employees rather than the reverse. This is flipping the old industrial revolution on its head and marks what is needed for the 21st century. There is much more and I recommend reading the whole piece.