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Time to unlock people potential

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

These are extraordinary times. A new Covid economic and business ‘normal’ is taking shape in the light of current knowns and unknowns. A response by organisations based on video conferencing technology or developing hybrid work models or even new social contracts with employees may be merely peripheral, restricted by long established financial year practices, and using outdated approaches to leadership, marketing, people and customer relationships.

We can grasp a bigger strategic opportunity. Financial and business discipline are crucial but do not have to hold back a wider and more fundamental rethink of organisations, business models, leadership, customer relationships and crucially people engagement.

The new reality gives us a golden chance to reinvent ourselves and avoid living off outdated or broken experiences and promises to our people and customers. We know our people are our primary asset and, in these times, it will pay us to value them and listen to them. If unlocked with a universally shared destination and aim for success, within a disciplined delivery framework, they will drive exponential, sustained profit and growth.

“One of the biggest effects of the pandemic has been to illuminate the utter lack of voice and influence most people have on their workplace”

Anna Stansbury, Harvard University

Covid has made a profound difference to employees’ views of what their business does, how they work and their relationship with their colleagues and ‘leadership’ team. Their view of the value of their work and what matters to them has changed, and that is also true of our customers. This change shouldn’t be suppressed or ignored, but positively grasped and encouraged.

Talented people expect to influence more than just where or how they work. They want to actively contribute to the mission, vision, innovation and commercial success of their enterprise. Unlocking this potential in a business-like way needs to be the priority, while ensuring that the newly empowered people understand their responsibilities and the business priorities. They will reciprocate with their everyday actions.

If this change of approach is also aligned with digital transformation, AI powered technology in human partnership can act as a liberator, augmenting human capabilities, dynamically personalizing the customer journey, product or service so that it is relevant and specific to the individual customer and consumer.

The benefits from such a visionary approach will be fundamental.

One will be the attraction, retention and promotion of talent. Better customer service and product innovation will be another. Also, businesses will be aligned with the new ‘trust economy’ where they can build long term customer relationships by providing transparency and earn the same in response. A human-technology partnership makes it possible for forward thinking businesses to weave their offering into the fabric of how customers now live their lives, responding to what is important to them. Head and heart – data and hard facts of course, but behaviour, people and emotion too.

“The people best positioned to rethink your current business, are those closest to the processes and experiences that most need improvement”

Goliath’s Revenge. Todd Hewlin / Scott Snyder

The role of marketing in this world has explored how genuine, empathetic, content marketing, brand promises and conversations with customers and wider society need to be the focus. But partial change to marketing alone is not enough, a fundamental review is needed, as described. Only then will marketing be backed up by a change of culture and the everyday deeds of the business.

This new reality can drive a new shared language, starting with customers, investors, and talent. What matters most to them? What are the immediate (revenue opportunities and cash flow) and strategic (brand and talent retention) objectives? The leadership team can combine forces with talent to revisit and create a new meaningful business purpose, vision, mission that they all can genuinely believe will get there. More than the usual ‘word-crafting’, a crystal-clear vision, north star and direction of travel understood by all, backed by shared operational plans and metrics. A universally successful destination.

Once this is clear and shared, a business can begin to engage in conversation with customers knowing they have the entire enterprise behind the promise. This can be done with new authenticity, empathy and respect for the situation customers are facing.

If marketing, working with people and the leadership team can align people and in turn their customers with the wider societal aims of their business, not only will it serve the short-term commercial aims, but it can also be central to long-term growth. A new marketing priority will be developed, marching in lock step with the rest of the business, rather than in its own silo. This will enable positioning and communications to build on what the business does every day and how it behaves, with a message, positioning and customer conversation created and delivered by all parts, top to bottom, with no exceptions.

Servant leadership

The approach requires the whole leadership team to recognise that people are the most valuable asset and primary source for future success and competitive advantage. They will need the humility, inspiration and empathy to listen and be prepared to change and want to know – good and bad – how their people feel and what they think. The leadership team must then demonstrate that they are keen to prioritize and enact the new ideas.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish... if you do not care who gets the credit”

Harry S. Truman

Understanding people is key. The new way forward and language needs organisation-wide acceptance. It will be the basis for decisions and everyday deeds by all. Connecting this understanding to customer insight will also reveal the triggers and barriers that drive purchase decisions in the new world and help prioritise the response. What are the new customer pain-points and how have the rational and emotional triggers and barriers changed? We need quantitative data combined with qualitative and psychographic insight to reveal how customers feel and how their emotional view of the world has changed.

If all is delivered within a business disciplined framework (see the Potentuel Management Consultancy approach) that ensures it is not merely a siloed, HR, people initiative, but one aligned with the financial year, customer needs and a continuous right to left view of the universally successful destination, then talent engagement and unlocking people potential can be the critical driver of long-term business growth in the new Covid world.


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