The 5 Essential Strategies To Increase Your Return on People

By  Anne C. Graham, Special for  USDR

84% of businesses rank a C, D, or F on the newly released 2015 Return On People Benchmark Report, yet many beloved brands and best-kept secrets are hitting it out of the ballpark with an A+, A, or B.  Why is there such a difference, where do you rank, and what can you to do improve your grade?  Overcome 5 specific challenges to leaders have  mastered.
The Return on People Benchmark directly measures productivity and how effectively your company transforms the only sustainable source of competitive advantage – the talent that walks in the door each morning and out each night – into value for your customers that makes them buy from you instead of your competitors.  It’s a powerful catalyst for transformation, as the CFO of a major building products manufacturing firm found  out:
I recall your session as if it was only yesterday.  You asked us all to plot our “profit per employee” on the chart. Unfortunately at that stage this indicator was actually negative $9,955 per employee. While our management team knew we were in a loss position, the impact of seeing our “profit per employee” “at the bottom of the class” was very impactful. We immediately set a new goal and implemented the Profit Plan you outlined. For our year ended December 31, 2014, I am pleased to confirm that we achieved $26,671 profit per employee – the highest profitability levels in the organization’s  history.
In almost every industry there are clear leaders and clear laggards, although ostensibly they have access to the same talent, the same equipment, technology, markets, and capital.  The top firms have mastered five things that others have  not.
When your teacher bell-curved your grades back in school and you knew you had to figure out a way to earn a higher grade, so it is with the Benchmark Report.  Your employees think they’re the best when it comes to raises and promotions, but the typical reaction when they see a low rank on their company’s Benchmark is to say “how do we get better?”  For most firms, finding 1% in the right areas of their business will lead to a leveraged impact of between 16-38%.  When your employees become motivated to behave like owners and make the small day-to-day decisions that lead to higher profits, it doesn’t take long to find 1% everywhere and see that leveraged impact on your bottom line.  Skeptical about those leverage numbers?  Use this online calculator to see the impact of 1% on your own bottom  line.  
Motivation is just the first part of the challenge.  The second part is to take action in ways that produce measurable results.  An savvy entrepreneur would never try to start a business without a Business Plan.  An experienced executive would never try to lead their business without a Strategic Plan.  Yet leaders at all levels frequently try to grow their business without a Profit Plan – and no, that doesn’t mean a P&L, because without a proactive plan, profit simply becomes the leftovers between missed revenue expectations and higher-than-expected costs… leading to that C, D, or F  performance.
The companies earning top grades on the Return on People Benchmark outperform their competition on 5 key profit  drivers:

1. Customer Loyalty:  Costco, Apple, and IBM are known for their loyal customers… and lead their industries
2. Top Line Growth:  Of companies who increase their revenues in a given year, 40% will decrease their profits – they’re going in the wrong direction!  Not all revenue is good revenue, and leading companies are smart enough to know their numbers and to walk away from growth at any  cost.
3. Bottom Line Growth:  Unprofitable customers typically eat up 100% of a company’s profits.  Just restoring those “Vampire Customers” to breakeven or better can doubleprofitability.  Many companies don’t measure profit by customer below the Gross Margin line, and yet that’s where all the profit leaks are!  Almost every customer starts out as a good customer on the wedding day.  Top-rated companies know how to make sure that the relationship doesn’t end in a costly  divorce.  
4. Quality: Just 5 categories of service issues account for 80% of unnecessary costs to serve.  In most cases, they reflect self-inflicted wounds on the part of the company, not the fault of the customer.  Companies who get these subtle areas right the first time enjoy a huge cost advantage over their competitors that has nothing to do with traditional labor or materials costs.  Find 1% in the right areas of your service function, and you’ll see substantial bottom line i mpact.
5. Innovation:  It’s on the agenda of almost every CEO, yet conventional thinking counts on big R&D projects and inventions intended to be disruptive.  Inventions often sit on the shelf unsold.  Innovation that reflects customer needs and wants sells like hotcakes.  A.G. Lafley’s outside-the-box sourcing of new billion dollar ideas for P&G was brilliant… and it shows in their Return on People vs the rest of their  industry.
Puny profits aren’t pretty.  How will you know what is really possible unless you benchmark? Download your complimentary copy of the 2015 Return on People Benchmark Report, benchmark yourself against the overall index and within your own industry, and then develop a proactive Profit Plan to move to a higher  grade.  
Anne C. Graham’s deep profit and growth expertise reflects twenty-five years of experience in diverse industries including Fortune 500 and small/mid-size firms. This best-selling Author and Speaker of the Year is on a mission to help 5 million business leaders transform “We don’t have the budget for that!” into the profit they need to fund the growth they want. Her new book, Profit in Plain Sight: The Proven Leadership Path to Unlock, Profit Passion and Growth provides the roadmap, with time-tested solutions that can be implemented in less time per week than executives spend on email per  day.
All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.