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1) Say it, and often. Have people-centered values and goals. Publicly and repeatedly state the importance of people to organizational success. If senior leadership doesn't affirm the importance of people, little else will happen.
2) "Employees" no more. Use Language That Conveys Respect. Fix the company's language to wipe out terms that convey disrespect or disdain of its people. The term "worker" or even "employee" conveys someone who is in a subordinate role. Virgin Atlantic refers to its people, Wal-Mart has company associates; Whole Foods Market calls everyone, from the CEO down, a team member. Language influences how we see things, and so is useful in helping everyone to see people as important.
3) Prove it! Act on the belief that people are important. Provide everyone with access to the organization's leaders. At Southwest Airlines, every person has the home phone number of every company officer. This action symbolically tells people that all of them are important and are taken seriously in the firm. Another way to signal commitment to people is through training. Too many companies view training as a discretionary expense that can be readily cut in times of poor profits. Smart companies invest heavily in training, regardless of economic conditions.
4) Measure it! Assess how well the company is doing and acting on those measurements.
At Hewlett-Packard, part of managers' performance evaluation depends on how well they are living up to the H-P Way, assessed through a survey of the people who work for them. Getting outstanding results in the right way-by treating people well,developing and retaining them-is the mark of success.
5) Invest in Developing Leaders Throughout the Organization Who Put People First.
This is perhaps the most important step in putting people first, because it ensures that those in leadership positions have people-oriented values and ways of managing that are consistent with the company's philosophy and strategy. ServiceMaster, which provides cleaning and other services to hospitals, and other institutions, has recognized that its basic core competence-and the key to its outstanding business success in an industry with essentially no barriers to entry-is its ability to train and develop people.
6) Everyone counts. Recognize the importance of all of a company's people to success. Successful organizations recognize that all work is knowledge work-not just typical "knowledge-based" industries like management consulting and software. Is selling men's clothing knowledge work? It is to The Men's Wearhouse, which, through its training programs, not only generate more sales revenue from people better equipped to sell but also a more committed and motivated workforce-in part due to the enhanced self-esteem that comes from being taken very seriously. Putting people first means, in the end, taking all of them seriously-recognizing opportunities to leverage knowledge and build skills in all jobs, in all organizations.
(From The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First by Jeffrey Pfeffer, Adapted by permission of Harvard Business School Press. Copyright 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.) f Harvard College.)