I don’t know when it happened, but at some point, “the bottom line” took over American business. It became the all-important end-all and be-all of existence. It became the god that American companies worshiped above everything else.
It wasn’t always like that. At one time, people mattered. Companies invested themselves in their employees, financially and emotionally. It was important for companies to have “lifers,” people who saw the company as “family,” as a place that nurtured and provided for them. Do you remember those times?
At some point, though, that changed. Management tactics shifted. At one such company, writes author and CEO Bob Chapman, problems were met with “frequent restructurings and layoffs [that] succeeded only in exacerbating its problems, damaging its culture, and destroying morale.
“Fear and distrust were rampant,” Chapman writes. “A corrosive ‘us vs. them’ mentality pervaded the company: union vs. nonunion, office vs. shop, management vs. workers.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” writes Chapman, author of the book Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family (Portfolio; October 6, 2015).
“It is possible to restore hope and provide secure futures for people . . . But to do that, we first have to radically change the way we think about business, about people and about leadership. If we do so, we can build thriving organizations that bring joy and fulfillment to all who serve them and depend on them.”
Chapman is the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, a $2 billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting company. During the Great Recession of 2008, Barry-Wehmiller found itself facing some difficult decisions. During a time when many similar companies found themselves experiencing rolling layoffs and low morale, Chapman and Barry-Wehmiller took a riskier approach. In order to avoid layoffs, they asked employees to take a month of unpaid leave in order to cut costs. The risk paid off, however, when the company emerged from the downturn with all of its jobs intact, and higher employee morale than ever before.
Using this story and others like it, Chapman and co-author Raj Sisodia, author of Conscious Capitalism, show how any organization can embrace this kind of approach, rejecting the consequences of layoffs, dehumanizing corporate rules and hypercompetitive workplace cultures.
“Everybody Matters is about what happens when ordinary people throw away long-accepted management practices and start operating from their deepest sense of right, with a sense of profound responsibility for the lives entrusted to them” Chapman writes. According to Chapman, these “long-accepted behaviors” include “a wide range of behaviors . . . that begin from the assumption that people are the functions they perform, and that succeeding in business means knowing how to make the hard decisions in the interest of making the numbers.”
Chapman says that at the heart of this new philosophy “is a simple, powerful, transformative and testable idea: Every one of your team members is important and worthy of care. Every one of them is instrumental in the future of your business, and your business should be instrumental in their lives.
“Machinery can increase productivity in measurable increments, and new processes can create significant efficiencies,” Chapman writes. “However, only people can stun you with quantum leaps. Only people can do 10 times what even they thought they could. Only people can exceed your wildest dreams, and only people can make you feel great at the end of the day.
“Everything we consider valuable in life,” Chapman writes, “begins and ends with people.”
In his book, Chapman examines how creating a working environment in which employees feel cared for and trusted helps them come together and work for a greater good: the success of their company.
“Though they are the exceptions rather than the rule, organizations do exist today in which everybody connected with the enterprise flourishes: customers, employees, suppliers, communities and investors,” Chapman writes. “Such companies operate with an innate sense of higher purpose, have a determination to create multiple kinds of value for all of their stakeholders, have leaders who care about their purpose and their people, and have cultures build upon trust and authenticity and genuine caring for human beings.
“I’m completely obsessed with creating a culture in which all team members can realize their gifts, share those gifts, and go home each day fulfilled,” Chapman writes. “I believe that if you trust people and believe in them, they can transform their own lives and the future of a business.”