Our staff are our most important asset. Many managers have intoned this mantra over the years but plenty of employees have probably thought to themselves that, deep down, executives place a higher value on the machines on the factory floor or cash in the bank.
That impression can only be reinforced when executives refer to the need to maximise “shareholder value”. The implication is that keeping equity investors happy is a company’s main priority. Employees fall into the lesser category of “stakeholders”, along with component suppliers.
To many American businesspeople, the concept of “stakeholder capitalism” is often seen as a woolly European notion. The assumption is that firms which focus on stakeholders will struggle to survive in the Darwinian world of multinational business.
It is easy to be cynical about some of the language used by those who argue that employees should be treated better.
However, hard-headed executives will only be won round by hard facts. A convincing case can be found in a recent paper by Christian Krekel, George Ward and Jan-Emmanuel de Neve. The study, based on data compiled by Gallup, a polling organisation, covers nearly 1.9m employees across 230 separate organisations in 73 countries.
The authors studied four potential measures of corporate performance: customer loyalty, employee productivity, profitability and staff turnover. They found that employee satisfaction had a substantial positive correlation with customer loyalty and a negative link with staff turnover. Furthermore, worker satisfaction was correlated with higher productivity and profitability.
Of course, correlation does not prove causality. It could be that working for a successful firm makes employees more contented, rather than the other way round. However, the authors cite studies of changes within individual firms and organisations which seem to show that improvements in employee morale precede gains in productivity, rather than the other way round.
What might explain the link? One school of thought, known as human relations theory, has long argued that higher employee well-being is associated with higher productivity, not least because happy workers are less prone to absenteeism or quitting.
However, as the authors of the paper admit, there is very little research on the best measures that managers can take to improve employee well-being, or indeed which are the most cost-effective.
In service industries, staff really are a company’s most important asset. And that is why smart executives will realise that a contented workforce is a necessity for corporate success.
mantra ['mæntrə] n. 咒语;颂歌
reinforce [,riɪn'fɔrs] vt. 加固;强化;补充 vi. 求援;得到增援 n. 加强;加固物
woolly ['wʊli] adj. 羊毛的;模糊的;似羊毛的 n. 羊;毛织衣服
cynical ['sɪnɪkl] adj. 愤世嫉俗的;冷嘲的
absenteeism [,æbsən'ti,ɪzəm] n. 旷工;旷课;有计划的怠工;经常无故缺席