Short-term approach will cost in long term

The recent Vodaphone-Mannesmann merger, which created the world’s fourth
largest business, has been described as formally marking the end of the
industrial age and the real beginning of the information age. In the rapidly
evolving field of virtual and telecoms technology it is only to be expected
that new products, services and even industries appear to evolve in the blink
of an eye.

Yet competitive pressures are driving even well-established industries such
as oil and pharmaceuticals, with their relatively longer-term business cycles,
to cut down lead times and get products to market fast. These operational
demands mean the emphasis on the short term is driven even deeper into business
psychology.

Senior managers are usually caught between the need to please shareholders,
by driving down costs and raising profitability, and the needs of the
organisation and its employees. The interests of shareholders usually drive
decision-making in the direction of cost-cutting and higher efficiency,
although a gloss may be put on messages about the need for change for internal
PR purposes.

Good short-term financial results, however, are usually the fruits of
earlier decisions and investments. The same is true of the human asset,
especially highly employable knowledge workers.

Evidence of short-term tunnel vision can be seen in attitudes such as
"We’re too busy to train" and recruitment treated as gap-filling.
Yes, outputs are important but while business results may look good at the
moment, the inputs – such as the morale, motivation and energy required of
employees to achieve high performance – may not be sustainable. But has anyone
noticed?

A true stakeholder perspective is underpinned by a belief that you get the
best out of people by providing them with congenial conditions in which to
work, especially the hours they are expected to work. The assumption is that
when people feel satisfied as employees they give better performance, including
service to customers.

Yet there are growing signs that skilled staff are becoming choosier about
who they want to work for. Employers who have put time and effort into making
organisational values a reality are becoming the employers of choice.

Such reputations are not won overnight. Building a climate of trust in which
staff are willing and able to give of their best takes time – and no time at
all to destroy. Bigger commercial wins are more likely to be achieved when
staff feel committed to their organisation, are well led and have the skills
and flexibility needed to build competitive advantage for the future.

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