Stop killing your competitive advantage

I read a great piece this week from the always great Michael Brenner — WHY HR IS THE NEW MARKETING — wherein he posited that employees are this great secret marketing weapon, and companies should work to carefully leverage their abilities in this area.

And, I was all …

Because he’s right.

But also because I’ve been working on a project the last two years that is founded on that very principle.

But mostly because when I am on the same marketing page with the Michael Brenner’s of this world I get all super-smiley and feel a thousand shimmering kinds of WOO HOO and HECK YEAH about myself!

::: Thank you, Michael! :::

Human Resources departments, he explained, are increasingly charged with implementing campaigns focusing on employee retention in addition to superior talent acquisition under the overarching umbrella theme of their organizations being a ‘great place to work’.

And that’s marketing, baby!

If you think of your employees as your customers (and you darn well better!), these campaigns are not at all unlike strategic marketing new customer acquisition, customer retention, brand recognition and loyalty campaigns.

Heck, being known as a great place to work is one of the primary drivers of the annual competitive ranking of businesses by Glassdoor, Business Insider, Fortune, Forbes and a slew of other sources.

And those rankings come from your most important customers — your employees.

Employees Are a Company’s Greatest Asset

Everyone’s heard it, and just as many have probably repeated it. Because it’s one of the most widely quoted partial quotes in the history of quoted quotes!

Anne M. Mulcahy

It belongs to former Xerox chairperson and CEO (and Chief Executive magazine’s 2008 CEO of the Year) Anne M. Mulcahy.

But there is a second part to her insightful observation that bears equal repetition: They’re your competitive advantage.

And, because it’s so shockingly true, logical and intuitive, I’m pretty sure I might actually be legally obligated to repeat it again right here.

Employees are a company’s greatest asset — they’re your competitive advantage.

You’re welcome.

The ROI on Competitive Advantage

A Brookings Institute study showed that 62% of an organization’s market value in 1982 came from tangible assets (equipment, buildings, land, inventory, etc.) and 38% from intangible assets (intellectual property, workforce quality, goodwill, strategy, etc.).

In 2002, those figures had basically switched places, with intangible assets making up 80% of a company’s market value and 20% coming from tangible assets.

In their Harvard Business Review article Capitalizing on Capabilities, Norm Smallwood and Dave Ulrich wrote that organizational capabilities are key intangible assets that you can’t see or touch, but that “can make all the difference in the world when it comes to market value”.

Those organizational capabilities, they explained, come into play when companies deliver on the combined talents, skills and strengths of their employees. And the results are worth far more than any organization’s tangible assets.

  • Better service, quality and productivity
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Increased sales, repeat business and referrals
  • Higher profits, greater returns

So yay, right? The secret sauce revealed? The holy grail of prosperity found?


Facts and Figures

Fun Fact: Only engaged employees are going to get you the results you actually want.

Sad Fact: There really aren’t a whole heckuva lot of us out there.

In fact, according to Gallup, only 32% of employees in the U.S. and a scant 13% worldwide are engaged.

::: gulp :::

The company also reported that nearly half, 49%, of all U.S. employees are disengaged and the remaining roughly 18% are actively disengaged.

::: BIG GULP :::

In case you didn’t know the distinctions:

Engaged employees are the singular rays of sunshine that combine to cast a warm glow of success over the entire organization. Aaahhhhh. Ok, that may not be exactlyMerriam-Webster-worthy, but it’s kind of close because EEs have an emotional commitment to their role, their team and their company. They’re the enthusiastic, high-energy folks others flock to for just about everything.

Disengaged employees are over it. They are sooo done. They show up, do their job and get paid for it. ‘Nuff said. They can be counted on to do the bare minimum with hardly any emotion behind the effort, and you can rest assured that they will never bother you by asking how they can help. Note: The disengaged were probably engaged at some point in the past but crossed over to the dark side because of a lack of growth opportunities, poor management, and other factors.

Actively disengaged employees are downright dangerous, and they’re bad for business. Period. Because they’re not just unhappy — they’re angry. And it shows. In the way they talk, in their attitude, and in their behavior. They’re the totally-disagreeable, ever-grumbling disgruntled gripers your other employees avoid at all costs.

Say ‘I Do’ to Engagement

Data doesn’t lie. High rates of disengagement point to problematic organizational cultures. When Gallup reports that 7 out of every 10 workers are disengaged or actively disengaged, we don’t have to guess the kinds of petri-dish cultures growing out there.

A disengaged workforce means lost competitive advantage and bargain-basement market value. It’s sort of an employment Everest, but a scalable one if you have the right tools.

According to the 2015 Evolution of Employee Engagement Research Report, these are the three key drivers of employee engagement:

  • Great management: Engaged employees feel like they contribute and matter to their teams and organizations in meaningful ways, and they have managers who care about them as individuals.
  • Transparency: Organizations that provide employees opportunities to learn about company initiatives, as well as those with an engagement policy are more likely to have a high-return workforce.
  • Choice and Collaboration: Engaged employees have choices when it comes to their involvement in corporate programs, policies and activities.

Creating a culture of engagement isn’t rocket science, but it also doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a dedicated commitment — an emotional contract, if you will — between an organization and its employees. And it’s the most lucrative business contract there is.

Because there’s no guarantee of technological superiority having a long shelf life, fickle trends like today’s fidget spinners are as easily replaced as yesterday’s flash mobs, and virtually all products can be copied.

But you can’t copy individual commitment or reproduce personal passion.

Your employees are your company’s greatest asset because they are your competitive advantage.

So maximize that internal marketing investment Michael Brenner mentioned by putting some real muscle behind it.

It’s only truly expensive if you don’t.

Republished from LinkedIn