Getting the People Right

Top-level executives of outstanding service organizations spend little time setting profit goals or focusing on market share, the management mantra of the 1970s and 1980s. Instead, they understand that in the new economics of service, front-line workers and customers need to be the center of management concern. (1)

Of course, customer-facing employees must have the necessary aptitude, the appropriate interpersonal skills and be equipped with service-enabling knowledge, technology and training to perform effectively the most basic functions of customer service. However, that does not mean they are at the centre of management concern.

We have forgotten that the way the organisation serves its people translates into the way customers are served. High employee satisfaction affects employee loyalty that, in turn, secures customer loyalty, which leads to growth and profitability in even the most difficult of times.

During the industrial era of the 19th and early 20th centuries, management and organisation was an evolving, ad hoc affair: its techniques were learned on the hoof and they were steeped in the engineering mindset that was the predominant discipline of the era.

In the cost-cutting fervour to introduce new technology into every organisational process, increasingly we see it being used to mechanize people and then to ‘command and control’ them, and this is sucking the life out of our organizations. Just as in its predecessor, the Industrial Revolution, in the Technological Revolution many of our modern organisations are treating their people as a commodity again, to be used and exploited in the machine.

The first management theorists, F. W. Tayor and Henri Fayol, were engineers. They firmly believed that organisations were like machines and that the people in them were merely parts of the machine that could be utilised, for optimum efficiency.

With Service-Ability, employees are the central theme and the customer is the focus. It is a depth of commitment extending from the very centre of the organisation to the loyal, satisfied customer through the loyal, satisfied employee.

Employee satisfaction is the glue that binds the relationship between the customer and the organisation and seals the transactional value. For true Service-Ability, employees need to be re-engaged and utilised effectively to rejuvenate that most important of relationships: the one with the customer, where attention to customer needs in a spirit of teamwork is paramount.

This holistic approach – Getting the People Right –  is essential if the organisation wants to achieve sustainable competitive advantage – and Service-Ability.

(1) Heskett J.L., Jones T.O., Loveman G.W., Sesser W.E.  Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work Harvard Business Review July-Aug 2008


Google’s way of Getting the People Right