Tag Archives: job design

Paying attention to people WILL pay off: How to get that link between better people management, increased productivity and profit.


“People are our greatest asset”: How many times have we heard that? I know from my own experience that good people management makes for good business but how many employers out there are wondering what the evidence is before they take the plunge?

There is a good deal of research that has been done to find the evidence, and it is definitely there. One particular UK study* of 67 manufacturers (average 253 people) showed a predictable improvement of close to 20% in both profitability and productivity when a range of integrated people management practices are improved.

The two key areas of people management practice they found to be significant predictors of profitability and productivity as:

  1. Acquisition and development of skills – Having the right skills and abilities for your business, the right people capability and an approach/ attitude to developing capability. See learning & development as way of improving morale, job satisfaction for your staff as well as way of improving the way they do their work.
  2. Job design – Thoughtful job design that provides meaningful work where possible, opportunities to take more responsibility when ready, seeing a job through from start to finish and getting a sense of achievement from work done.

ImageBoth these areas underpin what Frederick Hertzberg and his famous theory on motivation, would call intrinsic motivators:  a strong universal human need for purpose, achievement, challenge, learning and satisfaction.

The great thing about both these two key areas is that they don’t cost much. To design and implement, they require thought, planning and possibly some change to your business but not necessarily much in the way of extra dollars.

Acquisition and development of skills

The simplest form of business learning is to review business progress regularly with your staff – how did we go this week? How did we go with that new client? What worked and didn’t work? Have a regular process for review and a way of harnessing the learning and making changes to business processes that improve the whole business.

Encourage people to learn on the job, learn from each other, learn from outside – courses, visits to other businesses and learning through networking.

For acquisition, take a considered approach to recruitment, think carefully about what capability you need for now and for future and recruit accordingly . Think about how you bring new people into your business and show them how to do the job, and how to offer every opportunity for your staff to learn and to stretch their abilities and their existing knowledge.

Job design

Think about having job roles that encompass a bundle of connected responsibilities and tasks that people can say “That’s mine – I am responsible for that” and have the satisfaction of seeing an entire job done and finished. This doesn’t mean that people don’t continue working together as part of a team: even team workers have specific roles.

If you as an employer take the time to clearly spell out why we are all here (purpose of the business), organize the work (clear roles and structures), give staff some autonomy and integrated opportunities for everyone to stretch and grow. All are guaranteed steps in the right direction for happy workers, higher productivity and a profitable business.

What’s your experience? I’d love to hear from you…..

* MG. Patterson, M.West, R.Lawthom, S.Nickell (1997) Impact of people management practice on business performance Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD), UK.

Staff engagement: What can employers learn from FaceBook and Twitter?


Employers: Do you wish sometimes that your employees were as interested in contributing to their work as they are in FaceBook or Twitter? I am not advocating for social media in the workplace but to look at what those two platforms are doing right. Perhaps a more enlightened question might be what do FaceBook and Twitter offer that makes them so engaging?

A wise friend once told me that there are three key things that people want in life:

  1. Respect
  2. Affection
  3. Control

Over the years, I have often reflected on these and I use them as a simple checklist to see what is being done and what might be missing in working arrangements and relationships.

1. The Art of Respect: preferably a relationship of mutual respect, which involves a balance of rights and responsibilities – asserting your own rights and supporting others’ rights simultaneously. One person’s rights should not diminish another’s rights, and similarly with responsibilities. Developing and showing respect involves courtesy, listening, understanding, learning, acceptance and honesty. This could be about treating staff and colleagues as grown ups, gladly giving & supporting responsibility, accepting different points of view, different approaches to work and appreciating the richness in that diversity. Crucially, it also means you should expect the same in return from staff and colleagues.

2. Affection: potentially misunderstood in the workplace, I would characterize this as warmth in any relationship that is built on mutual respect and understanding.  I would say it’s also about inclusion, which is critical to human social wellbeing, and equally important in the workplace: no-one likes to be forgotten or left out and everyone likes to feel good about themselves.

Make sure that everyone is informed about what is going on in your workplace, trust them with information that is important to the business and watch people rise to keep that information confidential and use their judgment. Include people by asking for their opinions, their ideas, their suggestions, their energy and treating their responses with respect.  Particularly important and useful is to include employees who are knowledgeable or experts in the area being decided, no matter what level they are working at.

You need to ensure that employees understand that you won’t always act or even like their contributions but at the very least, they should be actively considered, and people acknowledged and thanked.

3. Control: it’s worth thinking about how this can be extended in the workplace. It’s mostly about tapping into what people are interested in and naturally motivated to do. Simple things to consider include individual office or working spaces and giving some flexibility in how this is organized, giving employees a say on how their work is done to allow for different approaches and personal styles, and possibly flexibility with hours worked, if this suits the business.

Deeper and more fundamental control is around job design – try to delegate “whole” jobs: where employees have responsibility from start to finish, rather than one very small part of a larger process. There is far greater satisfaction in seeing a product or service delivered if there is a greater involvement in the overall development. Ironically, this is one of the powerful motivators for small business owners and yet this is often denied to their staff.

Despite the obvious power differential between employer and employee, the focus of the enterprise ought to always be on purpose and productivity for the good of everyone – shareholders, managers, staff, customers.I suspect these three principles come close to the heart of striking a balance in any productive, mature and grown up workplace, and while I don’t always quite achieve them, I aim to.

I think FaceBook and Twitter potentially facilitate all three critical areas – they allow people to engage with people they are interested in following, encouraged to be included in conversations and of course, the hugely successful LIKE button – says it all!

And finally, don’t overlook the absolute obvious appeal of FaceBook – it’s in the first word of the title. We are all human and respond really well to faces, something that a lot of websites and platforms seem to miss. If you’ve been hiding out, show yours around the workplace a bit more often for a better response from your staff.

Nora Stewart works as an HR and workplace professional with Wise Work, Australia and aims to show her face at least twice a week…

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