There are plenty of high-tech tools out there to help businesses gain a competitive edge. Smartphones and tablets make it possible to communicate in countless ways, computer software gathers information and analyses data, while systems automate tasks and simplify processes.
All this tech is a major part of modern business. But when you look past the LCD screens and shiny gadgets, people are still at the heart of any organisation. People are not only there to turn the gizmos on each morning – they’re also there to do the things that computers can’t do. People are creative, they are social and can think strategically – and it’s the people that can set one company apart from its competition.
The human element
Despite recent news stories about how robots are going to take over most jobs in the next 20 years, the majority of experts believe that people will continue to play an important role in business. In fact, in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink explains that the number of jobs that require cognitive skills is actually on the rise. This means that people will be more important than ever.
From boardrooms to shared service centres (SSCs), businesses will continue to rely on humans to solve problems and use their intuition. For organisations that are able to make the most of their people power, the rewards can be significant – such as increased profits, better leadership and more brand loyalty.
So, how do you create a talented team of people? And how do you hang on to the great staff you already have? Here are our top tips:
Be honest about what you want
For some businesses, service excellence is the priority, for others it’s all about keeping costs down. While the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, it is likely that as quality goes up, so does the price. The thing is, it’s fine if you want cheap and cheerful. But you need to be honest about that – with yourself, your employees and even your customers.
Think of it this way: people still fly on budget airlines. Nobody is expecting hot towels and gourmet meals on a low-cost flight to Ibiza. The airlines make their offering clear and customers know what they’re getting. Employees take the lower-paying, less glamorous job as a first modest step on a competitive career ladder. But, if you want service excellence, you’re going to have to make room for it. That means spending more money, training up your team and investing in better systems.
It’s also important to note that, in most cases, a high level of service is worth the expense in the long-run, as it leads to happier customers and long-term contracts.
Choose strong leaders
Good leaders need to be authentic and have excellent people and management skills. For many companies, where teams or SSCs are spread across regions or continents, there’s even more of a challenge. That’s because leaders need to be able to work on a global level and communicate effectively across cultures.
Enhance with technology
At the beginning of this article, we talked about all the high-tech solutions that are available for businesses today. And we’re definitely not saying you should just ignore all that and focus solely on your people. The key is to find a balance, where technology is used to magnify people’s skills and abilities. For example, people are usually bad at data entry. They’re slow, they make mistakes and the repetition is boring. That doesn’t mean a person is a bad employee. It means they’re human.
Computers, on the other hand, are great at entering numbers. They can transfer whole spreadsheets of full data without a single error. And even if they could get bored, they don’t have the chance because it’s all completed in fraction of a second. The solution? Have the computer do the grunt work so the human can get on with the things they’re good at – like building customer relationships, solving problems and devising strategies.
Increase transparency and trust
Transparency is important across your organisation and you can create a lot of trust among employees by being honest about business developments and other issues that were traditionally confined to the boardroom.
Trust and transparency should also be closely examined when it comes to day-to-day operations. For example, blocking certain employees from accessing specific parts of the database or only allowing people to see their “own” customers. Data security and privacy are valid concerns – but over-zealous protection can impede a person’s work and obstruct customer service.
As technology continues to advance, the way people work will change. However, there will always be a need for a human element in business. It’s the organisations that effectively combine people power with high-tech tools that are likely to enjoy long-term success.
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