Management Advice - Employees as part of the supply chain?

Written by Professional Academy Tutor - Joe McKenna

High-skilled service sectors were hit hard by the recession and the lack of stability in its wake has done little to revive confidence. Companies downsized and jobs were lost. Competition to retain customers, as well as careers, became fierce, particularly under strangling budget constraints (not to mention the rising costs of Compliance within the Finance sector).

In the “buyers’ market”, where customers have a greater level of influence on high-skilled service firms but also where high-skilled service firms have a greater level of power over their staff, tenure has increased. In 2011 job satisfaction across the entire industry was at an all-time low and recent studies suggest that 50% of skilled professionals will seek employment elsewhere within the services sectors given the right conditions.

Accordingly, it is predicted that employee turnover is set to dramatically increase once the economy begins to finally settle, and then strengthen upon a foundation of real, as opposed to pseudo, confidence, with dis-satisfied high-skilled services talent looking to jump ship to a competitor.

The psychological impact of the strengthening of the economy combined with the appreciated increasing value of employees in the service sectors, where the quality of products being offered is a direct reflection on the capability of the staff member, and where the baseline in customer expectations has shifted during the recession, will result in greater employee bargaining power.

With an increase in employee leverage for influence, “sellers’ market” conditions, where employees have a greater degree of control and choice over the selling of their time and expertise to their, or prospective, employers, will arise; the management of employee-employer relationships has the danger of then becoming akin to supply chain management.

Shift in power

To establish competitive advantage as a result of this macro-environmental shift, it may be considered diligent for firms to make efforts towards positioning themselves as an employer of choice in order to attract the migrating talent from competing outfits, whilst ensuring that existing talent is thoroughly engaged. Adopting best engagement practices will increase job satisfaction and encourage the alignment of employees’ appreciation of the corporate brand with that of the brand promise that is made to a firm’s customers.

Ultimately, such an approach will result in a superior product from that of a firm’s competitors, superior knowledge of the market and business practices, a superior network of contacts, lower cost operations which could be passed on to customers, and a perceived advantage in the eyes of the customer of doing business with a firm that attracts and retains top talent.

To achieve this objective, marketing department will have to be more closely aligned with that of Human Resources. Many firms already do this well and the end result is a strengthening of the brand both within and externally. Depth research into what employees value is a good starting point in order for firms to best shape their offering as an employer. Leaders and marketers alike could then spend an increasing amount of ‘quality time’ with their staff, and a return on investment of this time would be seen through the reinforcement of a firm’s relationships with their employees, creating a more motivated, happy, skilled and engaged workforce, and a sterling reputation in the eyes of the customers.   

Source: The Re-Integration of Employees Out Of the Supply Chain Back Under the Corporate Fold" published in the International Journal of Management and Organizational Studies (Volume 3, Issue 2, June 2014, ISSN: 2305-2600)

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