Are Employees Your Competitive Advantage?


Visualize, if you will, this picture of employees:

  • They give you eight or more hours of their time five days a week.
  • They eat lunch at their desks.
  • They endure dreadful plan-to-plan meetings that rarely result in decisions.
  • Managers have little to no budget to recognize employees for great performance.
  • Managers have no budget to celebrate accomplishments.
  • And when an employee asks to attend a training seminar in Chicago the answer is, “Don’t have the budget.”

Let me summarize: Don’t come to work expecting much from us, your employer. You’re lucky you have a job. Get back in line, keep your head down, and do as the others do.

This visualization exercise is hardly that at all. It’s all too real. And we’re learning from Manpower Group’s latest research that executives are opting to put off dealing with their company’s talent shortage problem. Instead, executive agendas focus on improving the tangible areas of the business for competitive advantages: improving operations, implementing new technologies, for example.

Sure it’s sexier to implement the latest CRM solution. But, last time I checked it takes people to analyze, design, implement, and maintain such a solution.

If you want to have an advantage over your competition, dear CEO, get seriously concerned about how you plan to address the shortage of skilled employees to do the work needed for a 21st century organization.

The longer you wait to realize that employees are your competitive advantage, the longer you hold your organization back.

This is a knowledge economy. Businesses face complex problems that cannot be solved with a factory-worker approach to getting work done. The companies that invest in developing their staff to find solutions for complex problems are the ones who win in the 21st century.

Invest first in your people who create the value for your customers.

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of Switch and Shift. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

  • I know leaders and biz owners that feel as if there employees should just be happy to have a job. It’s their attitude that’s going to cost them in the long run.

    Lots of people are staying in their jobs only because there’s nothing else available. They’re looking. Why? They’re not appreciated.

    • Love this Shawn. Another great one. Kind of sounds familiar. Ha.
      CARE for your people first. When you do that, most of the time, the rest will take care of itself.

      Your last line sums it up perfectly.

      “Invest first in your people who create the value for your customers”

      Thanks again for all you do.


  • Thanks Shawn,

    Short, sweet and right to the heart of the matter. There is a handy old “saw” – “fill-before-you-spill” which holds great meaning for people, buckets and bank accounts. If you have previously provided something of value – you have a chance to retain the contents when the person, bucket or bank account springs a leak or starts to tip. If not, well… have you ever observed an empty bucket being blown around by the wind?

  • Thanks for the post, Shawn!

    You are absolutely right… PEOPLE are your business… and it is just as (if not more) important to appreciate and develop your team and culture as it is to appreciate and develop your client list.

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    There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

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