Investing In Your People

A recent article posted on LinkedIn by Sir Richard Branson (founder of Virgin Group) highlighted the risk company’s take by not investing in their people. Like me, Sir Richard believes that the employees are the company’s value adders and should be treated like the most important resource in the organization. He provides opportunities to exercise, free fruit and subsidizes training. He stated “People respond well to positive reinforcement, it encourages other team members to reach their goals”. From an employee training and human resource perspective this is glorious news; trained, experienced and happy employees who do the little extra without blinking an eye. This is how to Virgin reaches break-through results and about to become the first ever “Space-Liner”. “Next stop, Mars.”

I respect and admire Sir Richard, but the highlight for me is his encouragement and support for individual training; not surprising as I am a trainer. I have two professional passions; training people and Lean Six Sigma. Sir Richard is probably aware of how the Lean’s “Kata” philosophy aligns with Virgin’s culture of taking care of people. However, many other companies (and even industries) seem to emphasize things, not people. The “value creators” (aka employees); by investing in their professional development creates more value for the company…especially Lean Six Sigma training. 😉

So often I hear managers say “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions”. Great, sounds simple. Wait a minute – Does the manager provide the employee time to uncover the root cause? Has the manager trained the employee on unbiased data gathering and root cause analysis tools? Is the process improved for sustainable results? If the solution doesn’t work as expected what feedback does employee get?

All of these questions and more need to be thought about by managers prior to saying “Bring me solutions”; some solutions have actually created more problems – you’ve probably seen this. What managers are really saying is “Bring me high quality solutions”. High quality solutions require more time, analysis and employee training. It’s the manager’s job to determine which problems deserve the time and effort – and which get the band-aid.

It is my belief Sir Richard and Lean Six Sigma share the same values…take care of the people and the people will take care of you. Virgin’s results prove amazing (not to mention their profits) and demonstrates what can be achieved by investing in your people.