Employee Satisfaction: Maximizing the Return on Human Capital

Article excerpt

While it's tempting to focus on business process improvement to drive cost efficiency, it's important to remember that there are people in those business process blueprints. Managing their satisfaction can pay big dividends for your organization.

Much of today's business focus is on maximizing shareholder value through customer satisfaction, out-sourcing, and re engineering in the quest to utilize plant and human resources more effectively. As companies continuously focus on being in alignment with the needs of their customers and markets, employees and managers tend to get caught in the slipstream of change. Change is so unpredictable, since companies, whether they are profitable or not, continue to re-align their infrastructures with customer requirements, therefore altering their organizational structures.

As much as product life cycles are growing shorter, so are "job life cycles" - new positions are often created in this process of continuous alignment. These new positions, e.g., "manager of customer retention," "vice president, human assets," reflect newly created business processes and cross-functional activities, borne out of rapid business transformation.

Numerous examples abound, with companies such as Bell Canada, Canadian International Airlines, and IBM - all firms that are considered in the "Blue Chip" league, having announced major restructuring in the last two to three years. At the same time, these and other companies, are trying to develop a balanced approach to managing shareholder value, satisfying customers and employees in the face of tremendous competitive challenges.

It is employees (including managers) that often have the most to gain or lose in such an environment. The challenge is perhaps in maintaining a work force that can adjust to change and thrive amidst the chaos. This can only happen providing companies have a systematic means to ensure that employees, especially the most valued, can translate their own satisfaction to the satisfaction of those they serve.

Employees' satisfaction is as important as customer satisfaction

Satisfied employees can be the catalyst for alignment. After all, is there really any difference between internal and external customers? Consider the following scenario.

Employees, like customers, have choices. Since changes in the regulatory environment for long distance telecommunications services took effect, dozens of new companies have been created. Not only have customers been able to choose from a vast array of long distance resellers, so have employees. Thousands of new employees have been added to the payrolls of these companies as they continue to build market share at the expense of the more traditional suppliers of telecom services. In effect, as the monopoly for long distance services has been broken, a new competition has developed in the search for the most capable talent in the labor market, therefore broadening the career options for telecom industry employees.

Employees enable customer satisfaction

Within a company, employees are the ones who deliver satisfaction to your customers. They are the company's eyes and ears for shifting customer expectations. They are, in effect, the enablers of the company's strategies to deliver value to customers and make the company competitive in its markets. They "enable" through their synthesis of knowledge, experience and application of the company's business processes, products and policies to generate satisfaction in the marketplace, as relationship managers.

Ideally, the information that employees gather at "the moments of truth" should be fed back into the company and used to drive improvement, innovation and grass roots change throughout the organization. This is a notion supported by management guru Tom Peters, as he has often extolled "You are your own CEO..."

Companies may want to add measures of employee satisfaction to their information data bases. …