The small matter of people is not such a small matter. People are behind the platforms and processes that make businesses successful. There is a big difference between Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Investment in People (ROIP). Do you see your employees as an expense and liability, or as an investment? It’s a tricky question because it can be rationalised and answered in many ways.

Sure, you can shift your bottom line by cutting back some jobs and combining others, by not spending money on people development or training. That may fix the budget and the cashflow quickly but, it will also instantly create an atmosphere of distrust and uncertainty within the organisation which can have enormous ramifications. Even those whose jobs are secure, your key people, will feel the fear and anxiety and may be tempted to jump ship. 

SMOP: The Small Matter Of People

Rick Justice, ex CEO of Cisco Systems, talks about the Small Matter of People (SMOP). The concept of SMOP deserves our time and attention in any size organisation because, as it turns out, people are not such a small matter after all. They are the lifeblood of your business.

Employees are the best advocates and influencers for a business, internally and externally. Creating strategies and frameworks for ramping up your people focus (no matter what kind disruption your business is facing) is what I consult on with senior leaders.

If a restructure or people cuts are on the cards, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is indispensable in my senior leadership team?
  • Who is indispensable to those leaders for them to continue to deliver on their promise to add value to the business?
  • How much time and money are we going to spend replacing them if they leave?
  • What are they saying about the business?
  • How are they describing me as a leader?
  • What has their personal experience been like with me?
  • What should their experience continue to be like with me moving forward?

People are your number one asset

Some of the best companies in the world have a strong focus on human capital. Their people are their number one asset. They invest in them, come what may. You see, when you have a good relationship with someone and there is give and take, even if they leave or they lose their job, there is a chance they may boomerang back at some stage with additional experience and skills which will benefit your organisation.

There is a price to pay no matter which of these two age-old questions management is grappling with:

  • What if we train them and they leave?
  • What if we don’t train them and they stay?

I know organisations that intentionally raise leaders as a matter of course. They are a breeding ground for brilliant leaders, most of whom stay for a few years and then leave and go on to lead other organisations. But, what a supportive, connected and dynamic network this has created within an industry. There is incredible loyalty to the organisation that created the training ground. Others aspire to join this network so it attracts a baseline high calibre person.

Remember this: word of mouth is the best form of marketing. People travel in tribes. Your good people know other good people. Ask them. The caveat is that bad news also travels fast through word of mouth.

Don’t be short-sighted

Don’t be short-sighted

If change is in the air, for whatever reason (a restructure, cashflow issues, etc), look at how your actions, or the way you handle things, may:

  • Increase or decrease trust
  • Increase or decrease fear and uncertainty
  • Increase or decrease commitment levels
  • Increase or decrease possibility thinking, creativity and innovation
  • Increase or decrease performance and productivity
  • Increase or decrease accountability and delivery

I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t cut jobs. But, even when it is the right thing to do there is always a cost factor associated with hiring and letting go of staff. The cost in time and money for this kind of business interruption is sorely under-estimated.

If you have the unenviable task of letting employees go,  please make sure you have emotional and psychological support in place. It is never a nice thing to have do and it can be quite emotionally draining. You are human, after all.

Make sure that staff cuts to meet your ROI in the short term don’t sabotage your business in the future. Key staff retention in disruptive times is something to be considered from many angles.

Don’t forget the acronym SMOP. The small matter of people is not such a small matter, after all.

Much love,
Nikki Bush
Human Potential and Parenting Expert helping you to win at work and life