Focus on People, Boost Your Business

Susan Hall

After watching the IBM computer Watson wallop the brainiacs of "Jeopardy!" and after writing my post, "Will Middle-Wage Jobs Disappear?", it's a bit comforting to come across writers who tout people as the magic ingredient in the Information Age.


Thinking about the service industry, we know that's true. In this post, leadership consultant Simon Sinek writes that Singapore Airlines' fold-flat beds and other amenities on long-haul flights really don't live up to the hype, but the service makes the experience truly exceptional.


In my post on middle wage jobs, Paul Krugman at The New York Times says that computers can take over any work, including many white-collar, nonmanual jobs, that can be carried out using explicit rules. He used legal research as an example. But work that doesn't follow strict rules-and that can be anything from truck drivers to janitors-will not be so affected.


Meanwhile, former Yahoo executive Tim Sanders in this blog post draws from the findings of author John McKean in "Information Masters: The Secrets Of The Customer Race." McKean studied various companies in areas such as tech, information management and how they relate to supply chain and CRM performance. He discerned that the difference between "good" and "great" businesses was their focus on people-and not just in customer-service roles. He was talking IT folks, too. He says:

These highly engaged innovators produce the breakthrough products and make the competition obsolete. The trick is to get them to come to work, collaborate with others, finish what they start and guard the company's culture like a parent looks after a newborn. You don't generate that with checks, you generate that with an obsession on people.

And part of that, obviously, is laying out a career path for them, as I wrote based on my interview with Hay Group's Vincent Milich.


Sanders, who bills himself as a "people-centric business expert," offers these tips on putting people at the center of your business:

  • Hire nice smart people only. Negativity is infectious and he says that with so many talented candidates out there, you're being lazy if you hire a jerk. That's also the philosophy I wrote about of Michael Lebowitz, founder and CEO of digital marketing and communications agency Big Spaceship.
  • Measure and manage the mood state thoughtfully. He says you need to constantly monitor the mood and if there is no "buzz," find out why. Some companies hold managers accountable for the mood in their units.
  • Invest heavily in worker training, development and wellness. He says, "Don't just teach them how to program, teach them how to present, problem solve, meet better, etc. By investing in their soft skills, you'll take the tech edge out of your group."

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