It’s now pretty much accepted that in a knowledge-based economy it’s your people that deliver competitive advantage. What’s less clear is how organisations get this right.

In cultural enterprises it’s even harder. Investing in innovative and compelling events is not a one off, so continuous energy and commitment is needed, supported by commercial astuteness to balance the books. The people agenda can slip outside the radar.

But just think about the impact on your overall viability and success of a 2-3% annual revenue gain or cost reduction.

With 20 years’ experience of supporting the sector, QCG has a few ideas which may help.

Let’s start with the goodwill and commitment of your people – easy? No!

Ask yourself this: Do all your people (top to bottom) sing from the same song sheet? Curatorial and conservation people care passionately about the collections and their ability to share a compelling and authentic story about them. Commercial and development teams want to pull in the punters and their cash. Yet almost all cultural organisations have a one size fits all set of policies to engage and motivate their staff. Common values bind an organisation yet having the same policies and practice generally does not.

Engagement surveys can get at the tensions between divisions, but what’s often missed is the overall ‘value proposition’ that can increase the bonds and trust between all. Ask yourself this: do I fully understand what matters most to staff across all functions and levels – is the employee experience great for all?

Related to this, as CEOs and Directors do you have time to work through what those very different and complex psychological drivers are for your key employee groups – and do you have the head space to see how it will play with your external stakeholders / customers? This is a very real and different leadership challenge – and harder to achieve the ideal of all pulling in the same direction.

Then comes the area where we see most challenges: effective use of resources. In the current economic climate, we are all highly focussed on having just enough staff to get the job done, assuming that employee costs are under control. But are they?

First the myth that higher pay delivers quality staff and their commitment. Furthermore, costs of generally ineffective incentives and benefits hardly score on the engagement index – in the case of incentives, often negatively. Getting the overall package right so that value from investment in staff and how they are appropriately deployed is on an organisational sustainability basis.

Think about too the potential impact of the 2% or 3% profit gain on each of the three issues discussed.

Our next blog will dig deeper into the themes identified. So if you believe that getting your people programmes right will improve your organisation’s performance, then get ready for the next bulletin.

Alan Hurst
By Alan Hurst
Alan’s career spans over 30 years. He has held a variety of roles in central government, was a principal consultant with Towers Perrin and now leads QCG, which he set up in January 2000. QCG help clients drive business performance by working across the employee value proposition on engagement, reward and leadership development.
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