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  • Writer's pictureElement78 Team

Performance Through People

  • When companies emphasize skill development, it pays off for workers. Skills learned on the job contribute 46 percent of the average person’s lifetime earnings, and companies that build human capital are more likely to propel their employees into higher earnings brackets over the course of a career.

  • Building human capital also pays off for firms in the form of more consistent earnings and greater resilience during crisis. In addition to being more consistent than their sector peers, human capital builders are better at retaining talent, with attrition rates that are about 5 percentage points lower.

  • Some firms (“People + Performance Winners”) prioritize developing their employees and manage to deliver top-tier profitability at the same time. These companies are more likely to become large-scale “superstars.” They exist in all sectors and average more than $1 billion in economic profit.

  • People + Performance Winners have a distinctive organizational signature that challenges and empowers employees while fostering bottom-up innovation. This form of organizational capital contrasts with that of other top-performing firms, which tend to be more top-down and transactional. This management style seems to activate human capital and create a tangible competitive advantage.

On average, companies spend about one-third of their revenue on human and organizational capital (which we measure by using the proxy of compensation for the former and adjusted selling, general, and administrative spending for the latter). This is a significant investment, and companies need to make it as productive as possible. P+P Winners achieve roughly 30 percent higher revenue growth than both Performance-Driven and People-Focused Companies for every dollar they invest in human and organizational capital. By contrast, Performance-Driven Companies generate higher return on R&D and sales and marketing investment—but they have the potential to boost their overall results even further by making their investments in people and workplace systems more effective.

Corporate leaders need a deeper focus on the nuances of organizational capital. Human capital is not merely a labor input; people are any company’s core asset. The workplace should work for employees, with coaching to help them develop, structures for support, and workflows that remove frustrations. Employees know what works on the front lines, and their voices and viewpoints should inform any redesign. Beyond improving the day-to-day experience for workers at every level, these principles can enhance competitiveness and adaptability in a fast-moving world.

In some cases, altering company-wide policies and systems could spur positive change. In others, it will take behavior change from leaders. While C-suite executives can articulate the vision and set the example, frontline and middle managers are key actors since they set the tone for individual teams, have greater visibility into what’s working, and can be the biggest influence on the employee experience.

Not every company will choose to follow the P+P Winner template. Some are singularly driven by financial results; focusing on people may not be in their DNA. Remaking organizational culture is a difficult, ongoing commitment that requires energy, self-reflection, and a willingness to change familiar patterns.

But companies that adopt a more people-oriented focus along with a more challenging and empowering organizational culture have a lot to gain. In addition to boosting financial returns, they can improve their consistency, resilience, talent retention, employee loyalty, and reputation—and these are the hallmarks of companies that thrive over the long term.

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