Competition is a regular part of the business environment. Whether you run a Fortune 50 company or a small business, it’s likely that someone else makes what you make, sells what you sell or provides similar services.

Slight differentiations separate products and services while overall business structure, framework and equipment are often more similar than unique. What’s more, every organization with enough money or borrowing collateral can acquire the same production equipment or technology. In this environment, distinguishing yourself from the competition is challenging. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean that companies are powerless to distinguish their brand. To separate from the conversation, organizations can invest in their most valuable component – people.

Overcoming Biases: People | Machines

In the digital age, technology often takes precedence over other organizational dynamics.

In reality, every company is composed of four visible elements: culture, process, infrastructure, and people. Ultimately, each of these priorities point to the same conclusion: people are essential to organizational success.

People are the lifeblood of an organization, making talent acquisition and development a critical component of thriving companies. As a former client said, “It is a lot easier to get the best out of people than it is to improve machines. Trained and motivated employees will get your machines to run.”

As leaders, we’re often taught that automation and disassociation make our jobs easier, allowing us to avoid “dealing with people,” while maximizing output. After all, machines never go on strike, ask for raises, become dissatisfied with pay scales or request time off. Their motivation never lags and they never request sick time or form unions.

Consequently, the underlying belief in the efficacy of machines and technologies is pervasive, creating biases that fuel business decisions.

Measuring People Instead of Equipment

When improving cost performance, businesses often turn to capital projects to enhance output.

Consider two scenarios. A manufacturing company can invest $4 million in a transformation project that will increase the capabilities of 500 employees, or it can invest $2 million in a new labeler for the packaging line.

Undoubtedly, the $2 million investment is an easier decision with a more immediate financial advantage. An equipment purchase offers the clear return on investment (ROI) that leaders are trained to embrace and most stakeholders easily understand.

However, in many ways, this investment fails to deliver sufficient ROI, and purchases such as this are rarely scrutinized after implementation.

Assessing the return on an investment that engages 500 people is inherently difficult. You rarely have the audience, time nor the methods to make these challenging investments, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook them.

Invest in Your People for a Competitive Advantage

Ultimately, competing on equipment and technology alone is a losing proposition. With enough cash or collateral, any organization can acquire these things, swiftly eradicating its competitive advantage.

In contrast, people are not as easily replaced. By recognizing the importance of people-centered investments, you can develop an upper hand that can’t be bought up or brought to market. 

However, making the human connection your company’s greatest asset requires more than just lip service. A true competitive advantage isn’t created by simply stating that people are your greatest asset. It occurs when you equip people to engage and perform.

People are vital to every company’s success, both today and in the future. They bring knowledge and personalities while adding value at every level. Simply put, workplace culture isn’t just a buzzword that attracts the top talent. It’s a bottom-line initiative that separates successful companies from the copycats.