The Marketing Bureau

Specialist Marketing & Communications Resourecs



He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

It is People. It is People. It is People.

By Brian H Meredith

From the NZBusiness"Marketing Maestro" Archive
First published October 2012

Yes, I know I have written about this issue before. More than once, in fact. But the issue continues to be a significant one and one which, for reasons that I don’t comprehend, continues to go unaddressed by too many businesses.

The issue is people.

More specifically, the issue is the people who work for a business – from the senior management to the frontline and all points in between – and who are poorly recruited, poorly trained, poorly supported, poorly nurtured and poorly rewarded.

And all of this remains an issue despite the humble Personnel Department having evolved into a gigantic industry in its own right and now called “Human Resources”.

Makes you wonder what the HR Oberführers are doing all day.

Here is one of business’s simple realities – there is only one asset without which a business cannot continue to operate - people. We could remove just about any other element of a business and we could manage, somehow, to continue trading. But remove the people and it grinds to a halt instantly.

Given that simple reality, why is it that so many businesses continue to treat their people poorly or, in a worryingly large number of cases, quite badly?

Why, for example, is the frontline of a business (e.g. retail staff, flight attendants, bank tellers, waiters and a gazillion other customer facing roles) so often disregarded by senior management and treated, at best, as functionaries, without any recognition apparently existing of the fact that these are the people who are doing the business – not writing the strategies, developing the budgets, managing the finance or finessing the supply chains etc., but, rather, doing the business, face to face with customers every minute, of every hour of every day.

These people are, in reality, MMDs – Mini Marketing Directors – who are looking after the relationships that the business has with the only people who give the business money – its’ customers.

Several Surveys over the past year or so have identified seriously worrying numbers of people in all roles across all types of business who are currently either actively looking for another job or are about to start looking. Those numbers have ranged across those Surveys from 60% - 70%. That’s scary.

Anecdotally, the reasons behind this desire to move on is due to being poorly treated, poorly paid and poorly recognised for their efforts and contribution.


Frankly, I am darned if I know.

Let’s move further up the tree from the frontline (and here is an issue in itself – in the typical hierarchical structure, God or Goddess sits at the top and the frontline sits at the bottom. In fact, there is one more layer below the frontline and that is the customers).

This is where we find Supervisors, Managers and Directors. It is also where we should expect to find Leaders but there aren’t a whole heap of those around.

The quality of management at each of these levels is notoriously poor and has been identified and written about by bigger and better brains than mine. However, I come into contact with many people in these roles and I am frequently disappointed at how poorly trained and supported they are themselves.

The understanding of the core principles of business, for example, is sadly lacking.

Their role in contributing to the overall marketing effect of the business is also very poorly understood.

And their role in nourishing, nurturing and caring for those people who sit below them in that hierarchical structure seems hardly understood at all.

The gap between the top few layers and the front line is, typically, vast. A bank teller, for example, will see more customers in a day than a Senior Manager is likely to see in a year.

And it is not the fault of the people who sit in these Supervisor, Manager and Director roles. It is the fault of the CEO and the Board. Too often, the focus of these people is solely on profitability and the return on shareholder funds.

And whilst this is, of course, a vital element of a business’s performance, there seems to be little understanding of where the money comes from in the first place. If such an understanding existed, the business would surely be investing in the recruitment, training, nurturing and rewarding of every single person in the organisation, given that they all contribute (for good or for bad) to the relationship with the only place the money comes from (reminder – that’s customers).

So, guys & gals, grasp this simple reality and begin to orientate your business towards the only place the money comes from. Recognise and respond to the reality that it is your people, at every level, who can either optimise or sub-optimise the results of that reality. They are all your Mini Marketing Directors – recognise that reality, invest in that reality and drive that reality. Then (and only then) will you be able to reap the rewards of that reality (making sure you share some of those rewards along the way).


Tania Oxenham commented on 11-Oct-2012 11:41 AM
An interesting read Brian. If we were to consider business in a more holistic way, we would think of it more as a living organism, frequented by the very people you advocate for. People will certainly be a key focus for when our team presents next month.
Paul commented on 11-Oct-2012 11:51 AM
Technology and e-business has made it super easy to look and apply for jobs with minimum effort and excellent results, not to mention the passive recruitment revolution taking place through LinkedIn at the executive-level.

If workers in the 1950s could have seen and responded to every job available in the country within 30 seconds, they would have been there with bells on emailing CVs from the toilet cubicles and looking up "how to write a good CV tutorials " on google.

Its just too easy these days.

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