We Need a Way To Measure “People.” FAST!

jasonseiden Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Jason Seiden, Performance

Quick: what’s the most important determinant of a company’s success?

Did you say Culture? Leadership? People? Something like that?

If so, good for you. You’re onto something.

Now, here’s your challenge: since people do what gets inspected (not expected), and what gets inspected is what gets measured, you’re going to have to fight a torrent of pressure pushing you to solve financial problems with financial solutions… not because people think financial solutions work, necessarily, but because those are the ones that we can measure.

Never mind that they got us into our current financial crisis. The power to focus on what gets measured is simply that strong: here are homepages from BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, and Fortune. All of them, on May 10, contained stories entirely focused on financial metrics. We’re still very much an economy driven by dollars and finances.

(Kudos to Fortune for having a “management” tab… even though the stories on that page were a bit… light.)

Just because we cannot measure the value of human behavior—and let me be clear, by “measure,” I do not mean with a Myers-Briggs test—does not mean that human behavior does not have a critical impact on our financial well-being. Denying the impact of leadership, culture, people, etc. due to lack of measureability would be like denying the health benefits of blueberries due to the inability to measure the impact of antioxidants. Logically, that makes no sense!

Even if you don’t deny the benefit of blueberries and their antioxidants, you still have a problem when putting together nutrition information boxes: if you can’t measure the value of antioxidants, you can’t put that information in the nutrition info box, and if you can’t put it into the box, then others can’t use the info to make a decision.

It’s a tough spot.

Unless you have the creativity to spot causal relationships and the courage to stand by your convictions, you may find yourself trapped once more by the same-old-same-old quarterly earnings pressures.

When you do, just remember that when I asked you what the most important determinant of your company’s success was, you answered people.

Stay focused on what’s most important, and you’ll be fine.