Home > Blog > The Human Cost of Problems

The Human Cost of Problems

Posted by admin on November 3, 2013

In our last few blog posts we’ve looked at the quantifiable cost of problems—the dollars that directly impact the bottom line.  This time we look at the human cost of problems that prevent companies from becoming the employer of choice in their industries.  Here are some of the key areas where problems affect the human dimension of the company.

Health and Safety – A manufacturing plant is a dangerous place where employees can be injured and killed in the course of doing their jobs.  While injuries and deaths are usually perceived as being the problems, they are actually the symptom of problems.  The actual problems might be a machine that is leaking fluid, a missing piece of safety equipment, poor quality raw material, an improperly installed part, not following procedures, or employee use of alcohol or drugs, etc.  While an employee or his/her family may be financially compensated in the case of injury or death, there is often a devastating emotional impact that money can’t address.  Companies that focus on preventing problems avoid these situations and send a clear message to employees that it is better to slow down or stop production rather than risk an employee’s life or health.    These are the companies that go beyond mere lip service that their employees are their greatest assets.  They prove it with action.

Burnout – Constantly fighting fires is tough, tiring work.  You never feel like you get on top of things to work on the bigger projects that can help the company outpace its competitors.  It’s always one thing after another and patching up things to get through the shift, knowing the problem will reappear tomorrow is not much fun (unless you like being the hero who puts out the daily fires and gets rewarded for it).   One person in a LinkedIn discussion group pointed out that firefighting disturbs a lot of lives.  We know this issue can be a morale problem when employees are missing dinner and family events on a regular basis.  Yeah, it’s part of their jobs but when it happens all the time, something is wrong.

Job Loss – People, especially leaders, get fired because of problems.  It can be one major problem that was not prevented, recurring problems or a series of independent problems that draws the attention of the company’s top leaders.  At some point the leader’s bosses lose confidence that the leader can execute effectively and start to look for his or her replacement.  A problem, by definition, is a surprise because it is deviation from expected performance. .  And if there is one thing senior leaders don’t like is a surprise, not even a positive one. 

Attracting the Best – Everyone in a given industry knows the company or companies with a reputation for excessive problems.  It’s the place people don’t want to work.  Even within a company, some plants have a reputation for problems and they are the places no one wants a transfer to.  Typically, it is only the leader who is given free reign to fire and hire, and make other fundamental changes, that is willing to take on the challenge of turning around these operations.  But there are many very talented people who just don’t want the hassle of working where problems are a constant occurrence. 

Beyond the measurable financial impact of problems, companies that don’t prevent problems or that suffer recurring problems face human costs that are not easily measured.  These situations result in low morale, difficulty attracting and retaining high-performing employees, and can eventually cost leaders their jobs.  Companies that focus on preventing and effectively solving employees, by contrast, become the place where the best talent wants to work because these employees know they will help the company advance.