Paul Preston spent 44 years working for Unilever in an assortment of roles ranging from financial positions to country president to senior vice president of human resources. Today, Paul is still consulting with many business leaders around the world and working on a number of youth issues. Below is a guest blog that shares Paul's call to action when it comes to taking care of your talent.
If I had a pound for every annual report or statement from a leader that, said "without our loyal staff (i.e. our great people, our amazing talent, our unique workforce, etc.) we could have never made the progress, withstood the battering from the recession, achieved xyz, etc. etc. etc. I would be living in a huge castle. But I have to ask myself - Are these company/leader statements really true? Do their actions really support such statements?
Of course not, they gave their people bonuses out, promoted them, moved them around, downsized, let people go, right sized, bench marked, etc. They cut all discretionary spending in areas of perceived entitlement such as big cars, five star hotels, first/business class air travel (except for some "special people"). They explained that the occasional breakdown, burnout, failed personal relationships, bouts of sickness, long hours, exhaustion, high stress, high blood pressure and heartburn goes with the territory. Then, to make themselves feel better, they opened a company gym, launched a health campaign, came up with some great wall slogans, put fruit in the meeting rooms, so they could go home and talk about what they had done for their "people".
But again - do these actions really match their big statements? Do they really care if these things really help their people?
Why don't leaders set up protocols that assist people and teams to perform at a high level and build executional stamina? Why do they bring in the best consultants and spend millions to streamline their systems, their IT, their HR, and their supply chain but not do the same to improve the performance (short and long term) of their key people? Do they not take this issue as seriously as they do product safety or workplace safety?
We all know that the people cost is the single biggest item in your profit and loss, and yet too often we do very little to support them to be their best all of the time. I know what you may be thinking. No, Paul don't go there. This is all a bit soft! We are not a "nanny state." I must have a hard Return on Investment/ a solid DCF yield. If I were to take such care of my people I will be seen as weak or that I may be going soft and losing it.
I urge you to be a different type of leader. Break this old and archaic mode. Stand up and say that this stale approach is insulting and part of the problem of our tough times not part of the solution. Better yet, stand up and say "I am a leader and I care. I need to perform, my team and their people need to sustain an immense workload, win new pitches, win market share, make a difference, wow our customers, improve their safety and well-being, and be great people both at work and at home.
So what is stopping you from grasping the opportunity, taking the bold (if not counter intuitive) decision to invest in a solution that builds the strength and stamina of your key people in a structured and strategic way. A solution that builds sustainable habits and practices so that your people win and the business wins.
The balls in your court, its your responsibility, stop talking about it and go for it. The long march started with the first step. If you really care about your people, show them!
By Paul Preston