HR: Putting people and business on an equal footing

Mina Pampus · 11 Apr

In February this year, Shell announced job cuts totalling 10,000. The result? A jump in share prices of 7%.

Back in October last year, similar effects rippled through the stock of Biogen, where news of 880 job losses resulted in 4% rises.
Such patterns are far from the exception. It seems that workforces are expendable, and moreover profitable, to layoff.

We’re constantly told that employees are a company’s most valuable resource. That it’s people, not products or procedures that drive profits. And yet the very term ‘Human Resources’ suggests that employees are a commodity, serving as either an asset or liability upon the balance sheet.

This pragmatic approach arguably represents all that is wrong with the HR industry.

Short-term gains versus long-term growth

 

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Redundancies are made easy by the removal of the decision-makers from the shop and factory floors that are so hard hit; it’s impersonal, abstract and un-emotive. It’s also defined by pure profit and loss and whilst the argument for redundancies can be wide and varied, they boil down to one thing: the need to cut costs. The move of mass job losses is, however, intrinsically linked with a focus upon short term gains – the need to boost share prices today, rather than the need for growth tomorrow.

Case studies making the case for un-corporate culture

Let us not lead you into believing that this is an argument for retaining jobs and the livelihoods that they provide for; this is far from a blog about accepting losses for the sake of keeping staff on. Quite the opposite.

There are very real, tangible case studies that provide business impetus for putting people first.

Take Costco, where a rethinking of HR and a placement upon staff as a priority benefitted the company with some1200% growth. Or GE, where growth of 600% was achieved after they scrapped their controversial performance reviews where the lowest performers were made redundant.

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Add to these examples the global leaders that are Starbucks, Virgin and Facebook, who each boast a ‘People First’ culture, and the argument for such an approach becomes ever more compelling.
Surely then, beyond even the human element of job cuts, there is business logic behind doing away with the status quo of mass workforce redundancies, and reason to shift toward a focus upon people.

“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”– Doug Conant, Campbell Soup

Your Employees: (Still) your most invaluable resource

The question to just how to create a thriving workforce comes down to one thing: making your employees happy; and rather than this being met with an elusive answer, it all comes down to chemicals.

Our biology can help define corporate culture. Here’s how those happy hormones of serotine and dopamine translate when it comes to the commercial realm:

1. Scrap policies that serve corporate self-interest; they promote only to boost the dopamine levels of those sat around the board table and within management offices.
2. Bring in new policies that focus upon feel-good factors for your staff. The kinds of policies that breed trust and that promote employee cohesiveness.
3. Introduce an employee initiative to drive down stress and decrease cortisol workforce wide.

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