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People-Dependent Work

Work that depends on people for economic value creation

People-dependent work refers to work that relies primarily on people for economic value creation. Such work typically depends on human capabilities like judgment, empathy, persuasion, initiative, creativity and adaptability, plus the more effective application of these capabilities results in higher levels of economic value. In contrast, work that is not people-dependent is generally so standardized that workers have little or no opportunity to create greater economic value with higher levels of individual performance.

Examples of people-dependent work are found throughout most organizations, at all levels from frontline employees to senior management, and across all functions from marketing and sales to production and services. For example, consider the work of sales representatives, customer service representatives, lean-production workers, professional and technical experts, supervisors, managers, and other positions in which people have the potential to create increased economic value with higher levels of performance.

More people-dependent work than ever before

How the people in people-dependent work roles (i.e., knowledge workers) perform largely determines the economic value created by their organization. When these people perform highly, the organization creates top value from its economic opportunities. When people in people-dependent work roles are not as effective as they could be, the organization wastes part of its economic opportunity.

Automation, reengineering, and the increasing sophistication of today's operations have replaced many workers performing primarily standardized-task-activity work with fewer but more capable workers performing primarily adaptive-resonse-ability work. Today more than ever before it is the strategy developers, process designers, opportunity seizers, innovation creators, technical experts, skilled craftspeople, process technicians, customer satisfiers, improvement pros, workforce managers and others in people-dependent roles who create an organization's economic value.

In many companies, even many of the lowest level employees have the opportunity to create additional economic value by working conscientiously, taking initiative, anticipating problems, being creative, suggesting improvements, and contributing directly to customer satisfaction, retention and development. Their work is to this extent people-dependent too, often with surprising potential for economic value creation.

Untapped potential and financial leverage

Improving the effectiveness of people in people-dependent work roles seizes untapped worker potential and market opportunity. Furthermore, small improvements across a large number of workers, or in workers in positions have financial leverage, can yield surprising returns for employers. DesignedWORK's experience demonstrates that even modest improvements in effectiveness can result in substantial financial gains. Consider these examples:

One client's field sales operation was able to achieve in only six months and at modest expense a 32% sales increase in sales revenue by its virtually dismissed 200 lowest performing sales representatives (out of about 1,000), resulting in a virtual windfall of new revenue.

Another client's production operation with just 7 production cell-group managers with profit responsibility was able to quickly and at negligible expense realign two management systems and within just the first three months increase profitability by over 20%.

Still another client's 800-agent call center operation was able to increase customer satisfaction by 40%, reducing call times by 12%, and reducing turnover by 31%, all by redesigning its quality assurance function to make it more effective with people.

How are such remarkable improvements possible? They are the result of better aligning the biopsychosocial nature of workers and their work.

NEXT: Biopsychosocial Dimensions of Nature

Want to improve your operations and financial results?

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