Putting People First

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Putting People First?

The “Politically Correct” View

Many companies espouse a “people-first” strategy. For instance, W.L. Gore and Associates, SAS Institute, Southwest Airlines, Goldman Sachs, Starbucks, and Lincoln Electric all claim to put their employees concerns ahead of all other business concerns.

There is some empirical evidence that organizations that put their employees first are successful.[1] The basis of this practice is the belief that an organization’s employees are its key to competitive advantage. Given the ability of most organizations to quickly imitate products, processes, locations, distribution channels, etc., it seems logical that the most difficult thing for a competitor to copy is a highly knowledgeable, committed, and motivated workforce. These organizations believe that the one thing that differentiates them from their less successful counterparts is the quality of their employees.

The practices that are common in “people first” organizations include:

1. Cultural diversity is valued. These organizations actively seek a diverse work-force based on age, gender, and race.

2. The organization is family-friendly. Employers help employees balance work and personal responsibilities by offering such programs as flexible work schedules, on-site child care, exercise programs, etc.

3. Employee training is a priority. These organizations spend significant money on training programs to keep employee skills current. Employees are kept current with the latest technologies and processes.

4. Employees are empowered. These organizations push authority and responsibility down to the lowest levels.

Organizations that put people first believe the result is a more dedicated and committed workforce, and that this results in higher employee productivity and satisfaction. Employees are willing to put forth extra effort and do whatever it takes to see that their jobs are done well....
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