We all understand from a business perspective the concept of getting returns. We spend dollars in order to make more dollars. However, as an employee of a business sometimes the concept of “returns” gets a little cloudier. Sure, we all earn a paycheck but sometimes it’s hard to see in the “here and now” how helping our organization makes more, benefits us and it rarely shows immediate returns in our paycheck. So when we talk about “Return On People”, it’s really easy for employees to relate that concept with just another way for employers to make more money off harder work, more hours, or fewer benefits.

As much as adopting a Return On People mindset is about making more back from your investments in people, it doesn’t work if those people can’t see or don’t understand where they fit in, or what they will get out of it.

A huge component of getting better Returns on People is increasing the amount of time spent on activities that generate profit, as well as decreasing or eliminating activities that have no measurable, or even a negative impact (more cost), on profitability. While the benefits to the employer of better job design are obvious, the net effect for employees is better, more meaningful jobs.

If you asked one of your employees how much time they spent doing actual work in a day (and they answered honestly), what would they say?

It is safe to say the answer would be less than you would like, but the real challenge is identifying what they did with the remaining time and why they didn’t consider it “real” work. Chances are at least some of the time is doing activities that is a requirement of their job that they just don’t see value in.

We all want employees that are engaged with work. It’s much easier to get that level of engagement when the majority of the time spent at work is on activities that have meaningful outcomes and align with that individual’s skill sets. It creates an atmosphere of value. It says to the employee that you value what they are good at far more than the activities that don’t produce returns. You have involved them in something larger than just themselves, and have shown the relationship between work and the success of the company.

Conversely, if we treat employees as costs and draw direct-line relationships between that cost and productivity, that productivity will be limited to the spend associated with it. If they don’t see you trying to make meaningful work for them, your get just what you paid for, labor in exchange for money.

Paying attention to Return On People isn’t just the right thing to do for your business, it’s the right thing to do for your people.

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