Many American business people are experiencing the most challenging economic conditions they have ever incurred. In turn, every effort is focused on getting the business moving again, returning to profitability, being creative and working longer hours. So why bother with human resource development at this crucial time? Because your workforce is the differentiator between you and your competition, and it’s an essential key to renewed business success.

Your Workforce, Not a “Resource”

When I hear business owners talk about their “human resources” or head count, I quickly get a picture of how they view their workforce. Unfortunately, in many companies people are seen as hard assets, like machinery or vehicles. And this perspective is often subtly displayed. Sometimes forgotten during the daily grind is the fact that your people are the brains, brawn and motivation of your company. And they drive success.

Investing in People, Step By Step

We often hear about organizational culture, but few are really sure what it means. Simply put, culture is the sum total of how people work together. By investing in your culture—or by improving the way people interact—your company can generate tremendous benefits.

However, an important first step involves getting your most senior executives on the same page—and this includes you. Keep in mind: the “culture change” process is an often long and difficult journey. Why? Stated in The Dance of Change, corporate forces that wish to create positive change are typically countered by forces that wish to maintain the status quo.

The second step involves getting your managers on board. Through retreats and leadership development seminars, the managers will need to understand and become committed to the idea that their own teams may need to work in a different way. The third step involves helping the workforce to understand all this.

Improving How We Work Together

To achieve the above goals, companies often need to introduce activities that teach people how to more effectively work together.

But the first step should involve lessons on how to work more effectively as individuals. This includes providing instruction on how to better collaborate, share ideas, have greater self-control with good emotional intelligence, constructively confront each other, and communicate more effectively throughout the organization.

To obtain optimal results, monthly coaching meetings between each employee and his or her supervisor are highly recommended. It’s also important to establish leadership development groups enabling people to learn various skills and discuss how they are applied in real situations.

Secondly, it’s important to allow people to practice working in a different way. A sound method is to institute daily work group huddles (those not on location can participate via teleconferencing). This 10-15 minute meeting brings together people to discuss what needs to be completed during the day and to determine what, if any, assistance or resources are required. The huddle also is a wonderful opportunity to give people recognition.

Thirdly, find creative ways to draw the entire workforce together. Monthly “State of the Company” meetings keep people in the loop on company performance—including financial. Plus, fun family activities like winter carnivals and summer picnics demonstrate respect for the workforce.

And finally, develop a language that defines how everyone is expected to work together. Some of the language should reflect your company’s values (honesty, integrity, etc.), and some should express the work processes. If these words and phrases are used every day, they will come to be viewed as the tools of the culture and will create standards for how people can complete their work with higher quality, efficiency and intelligence.

James Kestenbaum, Ph.D., a corporate psychologist, is founder of The Solutions Group ( This article appeared in Impact Analysis, March-April 2010.

Jim Kestenbaum
About The Author Jim Kestenbaum
James Kestenbaum, Ph.D., a corporate psychologist, is founder of The Solutions Group.


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