I am seeing numerous examples whereby organizations are haemorrhaging money due to the fact that employee engagement has been limited to the job on which the person is employed and the department in which they work; but having little, if any, knowledge of the Value Chain (working back from the Customer) or of the inter-departmental interactions that support it. Here are two examples:
Firstly a plc - a credit is put on the customer's account to compensate for a debt; brought about by an error by customer services. The credit is shown as being more than the debt. The Customer contacts customer services who advises that the Customer will need to talk to the Billing Department. The Billing Department advises the Customer that they can only see the amount put through, not the reason for the credit, and so refers the Customer back to customer services. Customer services are surprised by this, as they have no idea how Billing works. The Customer points out that he cannot do anything from his end to rectify the error and was surprised at the reply: 'Quite right - don't worry about it'. I am the Customer and the saga continues.
Secondly, an SME - after a turnover of personnel in one department, a backlog of work was put to one side as it was seen to be just an administrative task (the backlog was actually unpaid invoices that had been inherited by the new employees). However, this had a knock-on effect to the customer whereby maintenance tasks were not being carried out due to the non-payment of invoices to the contractors. It was not until customer services highlighted a problem of retaining market share (some three years down the line) that business leaders became aware of the backlog and the effect that it was having on the Value Chain. Trust between the company and their contractors had been eroded to a point whereby work was not being undertaken; which resulted in customer expectations not being met.
These are just two of many instances that I am finding; both in my own dealings with companies as a customer and when I visit organizations as a consultant. In the first example, I would ask: How many more customers are receiving credits that are incorrect (to their advantage? How much money is being lost due to a lack of collaboration between departments? In the second example: Given that there was such a large turnover of personnel (only one apprentice remained out of the original workforce in the department concerned), why was it that the new employees failed to understand the effect of their decision to sideline the backlog of invoices?
Are your employees fully engaged with the Value Chain (working back from the Customer)?
Have you put in place a strategy that ensures that employees feel, think and act consistently with the promises made to customers and other stakeholders?
Whilst business leaders are at fault in both cases for not ensuring that their reporting systems highlight the problems outlined in this article, the HR Professional also has a responsibility for ensuring that engagement strategies ensure that employees understand the Value Chain, inter-departmental interactions that support it, and the need for collaboration between people in order to ensure that customer expectations are met. Furthermore, they need to ensure that these strategies are agile enough to cope with changes in the internal and external environments.
George Kemish is a consultant specialising in HR Strategy, Workforce Planning and Business Scenario Planning. Having started out as an apprentice in the engineering industry he moved into business administration where he held management posts in both HR and Financial Management from 1978 to 1993.
For the next 14 years George held a senior management position in the Education Sector with responsibility for Management & Financial Accounting; HR Management; Secretarial Services; Facilities Management; Events Management, Catering Management; Marketing; Public Relations; Management of Freedom of Information & Data Protection. As Secretary to the Board of Governors he was also responsible for: Advising on the interpretation of all legislation, regulations & best practice relating to corporate governance; committee administration; drafting of the annual corporate report (including year-end accounts); drafting of the business plan to support short, medium and long-term strategic planning.
In 2007 George moved to the Ministry of Defence where he was responsible for HR Strategy and Manpower Planning in respect of worldwide operations until 2016 when he founded his company; specialising in Business Planning from a HR perspective.