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Employees As Sources of Competive Advantage Published: Sunday, November 5, 2000 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

Organizations have taken big strides in the past decades to move away from the work management practices that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s. Markets have become too complicated and demanding to rely on the command-and-control model, in which a few senior executives made all decisions. The model assumes that people were extensions of the machines that dominated the industrial scene and the management philosophy until very recently.

Today the work scenario is beginning to understand the significance of interpreting people as assets. If this predicament becomes generalized the concern would shift to measuring return on investment and developing strategies for increasing that return. That would open the door to a different view of education and training as expenses to policies and practices to make people more productive. When we invest in an asset, we want to make sure that we will be able to take maximum advantage of its inherent capabilities. Integral to business planning is the effective utilization of assets. Thus, we should never be content to limit employees to roles that barely tap their capabilities. We should never manage other assets in such a way. To the contrary, employees are a potential and sustainable source of competitive advantage for any organization. This view has important ramifications for our management policies and practices. For years, I have been urging professional associations to think and experiment with this new concept of employee development as an investment for the future, and to imagine what an organization that view people as an asset really looks like.

This paradigm of acknowledging mental capabilities of people, couples with the empowerment phenomenon where people are expected to use their brains. It also suggests that people should be held responsible for solving operational problems and for making their work unit successful. The impetus of empowerment goes hand to hand with the quality philosophy of change and transformation. The decisions needed to satisfy the customer`s needs or to correct operating problems without costly delay, have to be made as the need arises in the first point of contact, and that can only be done by front-line employees.

Between performance and rewards. Understanding the logic of this system can help to estimate the potential of improvement behaviors. It is also useful to estimate ?stretch? performance improvement goals. People who are goal oriented, work most effectively when they have something to shoot for. More than often conflict within organizations relate to the fact that people don?t have plenty to do. Overloading can be sometimes a solution...

If there is a reason to anticipate a dramatic improvement, it makes sense to move incrementally toward the goal. Employees can share a sense of performance rules and expectations, and it is important for them to feel good about their achievements. Organizations have to formulate very concrete plans for making people high performers and sources of competitive advantage.

 


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