In the wake of the GFC, we’ve seen so many NZ businesses find it difficult to keep their heads above water with revenues down and margins squeezed. Sadly, some have found the going too tough and have been swallowed up by bigger competitors or forced to shut their doors completely.
Most have found a way to keep going and some (unfortunately too few) have even prospered. There’s a few different strategies these companies have adopted to strengthen their positions in an often stagnant or contracting marketplace. Some have taken the opportunity to explore new markets they had never before considered. Some have diversified their offerings to provide completely new revenue streams (mostly without compromising their existing revenue base). Others have gone the other way and have divested non-core offerings to focus on their core competencies, enabling them to ‘own’ their niche of the market.
Whatever the different approaches adopted by those companies who have found a way to prosper in these tough times, one aspect common to them all is their understanding of the value of their people and the need to keep investing in their growth and development. The temptation to cut back or even completely cut out investment in learning and development in the face of reduced revenues and margins has been too hard to resist for many. But those who have maintained or even increased investment in their most important resource – their people – have been rewarded with higher performing individuals and teams, leading to better business performance.
It’s all about getting more from less. Most organisations (yes, even the successful ones) have re-shaped their businesses in response to the challenging economic climate. And that often means fewer staff doing more work. That’s a formula that can add up to an overworked and often disgruntled team with stress levels up and productivity down. The result is even poorer business performance meaning costs need to be further reduced and more staff layoffs are often the outcome. Clearly this vicious cycle continues.
Asking more of your people can actually be a formula for success. Frederick Herzberg found in his groundbreaking research more than 50 years ago that giving people additional responsibility can be a significant motivating force. But only if it goes hand in hand with increased appreciation and recognition of that extra responsibility. And, of course, ensuring they are equipped with the tools and training to develop the skills and confidence to undertake more and contribute more to the business.
It’s a gamble. Despite all the metrics in place in all areas of business, there’s no guarantee that maintaining or increasing your investment in your people will create a measurable return. But it’s a more than fair bet.
Talk to any owner of a business that’s flourishing, or even achieving a sound result in a tough marketplace, and I’ll wager that they view learning and development as a strategic imperative and they invest in their people with planned and consistent development programmes. And whilst the payoff can be difficult to measure directly, they’ll tell you that the ROI most certainly stacks up. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a 10:1 or greater tangible payback – and that doesn’t account for the intangible benefits that accrue (increased confidence, greater engagement, improved ownership, etc).
So, if you’re a business that’s struggling to make the impact you’d like in your marketplace, take a look at your investment in your people. I know it’s tough to commit the budget but can you really afford not to? Are you giving your people the opportunities to grow and develop so they can contribute more to the business?
Are you giving your business the best chance to get more from less?