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Successful Organization put People first?


Engr. Asim Hussain Naqvi

Putting people first has always been Americas secret weapon. Its the way weve kept the spirit of our
revolutions alive a spirit that drives us to dream and dare, and take great risks for a greater good.
Ronald Reagan

The quote above captures an important theme that unfortunately is lost within many organizations.
In many of todays organizations, their systems, processes, and technologies take precedence over
people. Companies that have prioritized their people, thereby capitalizing on their potential, have
seen unparalleled success. A people first culture is a culture where employees are the focus.
Employees needs are met, they feel appreciated, they are paid well and treated fairly, they are
encouraged to continuously improve, they understand their expectations, they have the right tools
for the job and they are recognized, coached and mentored versus being pushed and bullied. A
people first culture is a culture in which organizations like Microsoft spend $170 million a year on
training so their people have the skills necessary to be successful in their jobs.
Successful organizations put people first, invest in their growth and provide them with the tools, training
and support they need to be successful. This results not only in bottom line success, but low attrition
rates and high levels of creativity, innovation and excellence.
Microsoft, Motorola, W.L. Gores & Associates, Southwest Airlines, Ben & Jerrys Homemade, Hewlett-
Packard, Lincoln Electric and STARBUCKS pursue People-First strategies.
Evidence suggests that successful organizations put people first. Employees are a companys only true
competitive advantage. Competitors can match most organizations products, processes, locations,
distribution channels and the like.

What practices differentiate people-first organizations?
Cultural Diversity.
Investing in employee training.
Empowering their employees.
In turn, this converts into higher employee productivity and satisfaction. These employees are willing to
put forth the extra effort to do whatever is necessary to see that their jobs are done properly and
People-first strategies also lead to organizations being able to recruit smarter, more conscientious, and
more loyal employees.
Research has shown that there are a few crucial elements common in organizations that possess a
people first culture. These elements are briefly described below:

Reward Your People

o Celebrate Successes: Reinforce necessary behavior through positive recognition and
o Pay Your People: Pay people what they are worth. Money is not everything, however it is
o Provide Job Security: Let your people know that they have an opportunity to achieve their
professional goals.

Grow Together As One

o Share Information: The more informed your people are the more included they will feel and the
better prepared they will be to make decisions that affect the organization.
o Engage and Empower Your People: Allow people to utilize their skillsets; you
Hired them for a reason! Give them projects to work on that align their skills and their passions. Let
them know they have an opportunity to be made a difference within the organization.
o Document Progress: Ensure people understand that there are advancing in the right direction,
through feedback or periodical evaluation.

Connect, Connect, Connect

o Provide: Training workshops, large group interventions, company escapes, time away from the
normal day-to-day to enjoy each others presence as well as to learn from each others
o Collaborate: Give your people as many opportunities as possible to work together. Utilize the
various perspectives people have to ensure diverse thinking and action planning.

Give Everyone a Voice

o Open Up Decision Making: Do not leave all of the decisions to be made by upper management.
The more involved people are in the decision-making process the more buy in and commitment you
will have.
o Foster Participation: Have round table meetings, facilitate focus groups, have interactive
communities through the intranet, make it easy for people to provide their opinions and
o Never Discount Anyone: You will be surprised at what can be brought to the table by those who
you least expect.
o Prevent Status Discrimination: When those with status continuously overpower people, the
workforce will often withdrawal.

Provide Heart

o Appreciate Your People: Make your people feel important. Thank them for the work they do,
listen to their thoughts and ideas and they will feel special and cared for.
o Value Your People: Seek out their advice; let them know how their contributions affect the
bottom line. Understanding their importance will allow them to take ownership.
o Empathize: Using empathy is one of the best ways to connect with employees. Using empathy is
also a great way to foster dialogue.

The items described above are not difficult to implement. Rewarding your people, providing people
with the information they need to be successful, connecting resources, giving your people a voice
and providing them with heart should be staples within every organization.

Practical Example:
Company Name:

Company Background
Founded by Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel, and Gordon Bowker in 1971 in Seattles Pike Place Market.
Purchased by Howard Schultz in March of 1987 and turned into what we see today.
Schultz wanted to create a business that does the right things for the right reasons and is
financially successful.

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks

Mission Statement
Establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining
our uncompromising principles while we grow.
Guiding Principles
To support their mission statement the following six guiding principles help guide the
appropriateness of decisions:
Provide a great work environment and treat each other with respect and dignity.
Embrace diversity as an essential component in the way we do business.
Apply the highest standards of excellence to the purchasing, roasting and fresh delivery
of our coffee.
Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all of the time.
Contribute positively to our communities and our environment.
Recognize that profitability is essential to our future success.
Putting people first is easy to say. Putting people first is not necessarily consistent with long term
competitiveness. Organizations are more typically pursuing a labour cost minimization strategy rather
than a people first strategy. As a result most business firms place profits over people
Organizations with problems typically look to staffing cuts as a first response. Few organizations have
the luxury to be able to provide workers with anything more than minimal job security. Employees are a
variable cost.
Learning from Starbucks
Starbucks is one of the most successful and admired companies today. It has grown from a single coffee
shop in Seattle 33 years ago to a $4.1 billion international company. From tasty beverages to proprietary
whole bean coffee blends to strategic relationships, small businesses have so much to learn from
Starbucks, the specialty coffee retailer, is one of the great 21st century American success stories.
Considered as one of the most successful and admired companies today, Starbucks has grown from a
single store in Seattle 33 years ago to 5,945 outlets in United States and 2,392 more in 28 countries. In
fiscal 2003, the company posted revenues of $4.1 billion
Cup by cup, Starbucks has changed the way people from different continents drink coffee. More
remarkably, the company successfully transformed a pedestrian commodity into a high-end accessory. It
has created a Starbucks lifestyle that more people continue to embrace in the United States and
10 Lessons
More than the taste of its coffee, there are a number of factors that propelled Starbucks latte to the
forefront. Below are some of the things that you can learn from Starbucks a company that started
small, dreamed big and grew to be a gigantic global corporation
Start with a good business concept
Starbucks is a tremendous success because it capitalized on a concept that hadnt existed
before the coffeehouse as a gathering place.
Think Big
Starbucks opened its first store in Seattle's Pike Place Market in 1971. The company started
small, but even early on it always had big ambitions.
Think outside the box

Starbucks strength lies in its ability to spot opportunities, even if that means debunking
accepted retail trends.
Partner Big
Starbucks has demonstrated that even a large company needs help to achieve its goals. In
fact, a key reason for Starbucks success is its strategic partnership initiatives.

Create a unique experience
Starbucks has created a retail store experience that is attractive, comfortable, and even
entertaining, designed to attract customers and keep them coming back to the stores
Keep Customers happy
The success of Starbucks is largely due to its steadfast commitment to the customers. The
company lives by its mission statement Develop enthusiastically satisfied customers all of
the time.
Dig deep into customers wallet
With coffee as its main product, Starbucks continue to introduce new products in order to
get customers to spend more money in their stores.
Ability to roll out new initiatives
Starbucks ability to roll out new initiatives and products relatively quickly is a considerable
competitive strength for the company.
Good Management
Starbucks has a well-seasoned management team that continues to develop winning
strategies for the company.
Diversified revenue stream
Starbucks understands that good business does not mean putting all eggs in one basket.
Hence, it strives to reduce its reliance of certain product lines in order to keep a healthy
financial position and grow its revenues.
Were not in the coffee business serving people
Were in the people business serving coffee.
-Howard Behar,
Director of Retail Operations