The role of human resources and the current challenge of flexibility

In times of economic hardship, companies paradoxically tend to look more intensely than ever for “scapegoats” and at the same time for solutions to get rid of the evil that plagues them. The role and responsibilities of the executives then come to the fore who are called to apologize and/or be entrusted with additional responsibilities.

In such an era, I believe that a new approach to the role of executives is required in two axes. The first concerns the study of the real human factor beyond degrees, the man who can utilize the education he received and takes as a tool flexibility and adaptability in order to understand and evaluate the situation and create opportunities for growth. The other refers to the conjuncture itself, that is to the indisputable fact of the constant change of conditions, and consequently of the impossibility to follow the same policies. Thus, by studying the executives objectively, we hope that we will have a good tool for thinking and evaluating their role in a new rapidly evolving market, which has now highlighted the customer in a completely different regulatory role.

In recent years I have written a lot about the role and treatment of the client. Usually the comments I receive refer to the “regional economies” that focus on the present and wait for problems to arise to address them. This, after all, is the difference with “mature economies”. In “mature economies”, capital is treated as if it is constantly in danger, and for this reason all its production mechanisms must operate in conditions of vigilance. On the other hand, in the  “regional economies” – even if we talk about multinational companies – the attitude is not what is expected – for example they copy the executive model, but without realizing that profits are not necessarily the money we see today, but the long-term consolidation of the position in the market through dedicated audiences, something that in our time has taken on enormous importance. So we meet a large percentage of executives who worry about whether they “listen” to the market, the competition and the customer. From the abundance of cases that exist, I will list two (in the form of case studies) and I would suggest if anyone disagrees, is concerned, or bothered to contact me to exchange views.

The first case unfolds at the gas stations of a well-known oil company and concerns the safety policy applied at the gas station site, given the obvious danger. The company by stickering on the pumps informs the drivers of the motorcycles that they have to refuel after getting off the motorcycle. At some point, however, I noticed complaints from customers expressing their dissatisfaction with this suggestion and I decided to address the issue. I found that, despite the fact that the relevant stickers were everywhere, the attitude of the employees of the gas stations was not uniform, with the result that the customer could not perceive the importance of the suggestion but rather perceived it as arbitrary or inconvenient. I contacted the company and specifically a competent executive and pointed out the problem. My intervention was treated rather with suspicion and certainly with indifference.

I considered this attitude unacceptable for an executive who manages and decides, and that is why I mention it here. When an expert in the field points out to a company problems with a purely scientific / consulting intention, the company through its executives must at least investigate them and -especially in this case- address its customers either with printed material or by other means, eg press releases or even including the message in its commercials, in order to explain its security policy,and to commit to avoid similar confusion in the future and -mostly- to convince the customer that he is always by his side. The challenge is not to sell gasoline or have gas stations with nice colors, but to actually convince the customer that he cares about himself and his life and not only about the money or – at best – his car.

The second case comes from the field of car trade and specifically concerns a large dealer of a well-known brand, which in fact belongs to a large business group. So here the customer does a planned “big” service of self-evident value and at the end asks for a secondary spare part worth 7 euros. This does not exist and – since it is indeed secondary – the two sides do not continue to search for it or proceed to order. A few days later the client happens to discuss the incident in a friendly company. The next day he receives a phone call from a large competing group and then the spare part is sent to him by courier as a “friendly move” without of course any charge. The customer was surprised and I was informed by him. I evaluated the move as a particularly aggressive tactic of attracting customers and I considered it appropriate to immediately inform the marketing of the group. They did not show much concern, although they acknowledged that the tactics were compatible with the new market requirements. But because I was not convinced that they were proposing at least something, I decided to include this case here as a typical example of inaction of executives.

To devalue the work of professionals is at least unethical and of course it is beyond my intentions. I have repeatedly stated that my goal is only to consolidate entrepreneurship and the market. We do not care about what executives write on their Twitter or if they spend their time playing FarmVille. This should probably be the concern of their employers. It is also not the best starting point for their evaluation whether they went to England or America bringing back brilliant degrees. After all, these scientific supplies were approved by university professors and evaluated by the HR. In any case, however, we are interested in the opinion of the customer, who now strongly shows that he is not convinced. This customer will always be here and we will always want to “sell” to him. So it is time for executives to realize that in the question “Are you with us or with the lion?” the answer “We are the lion!” indicates infantile-level professionalism.

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