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Feelings Matter—"Soft" Is "Hard"

Best-selling author Judith Bardwick, Ph.D., reminds us that there is an enormous body of evidence that the “soft” variables that HR tends to deal with have hard outcomes—quantifiable, measurable outcomes—and it is time for senior management to pay attention.

In her book, One Foot Out the Door: How to Combat the Psychological Recession That’s Alienating Employees and Hurting American Business, Bardwick pointed to a recent Gallup study that showed much of what is taken for granted is in fact incorrect.

• The premise is that CEOs care about people because they often say, "People are our most important asset." The fact is that CEOs don’t care about the people; they care about results.

• The premise is that Americans ground their identities in their family and community. The fact is that since the early 1990s most people identify themselves in terms of their jobs, their job titles, and the brand image of their employers.

• The premise is that employees in the United States are fully involved in their work. The fact is that only 25% have a strong commitment to their job.

• The premise is that employees are really motivated by compensation and benefits. The fact is that an employee’s manager is the key to that person being fully involved.

• The premise is that the majority of managers are effective. The fact is that far fewer than one in four is strong and caring and therefore effective.

• The premise is that our economy is stronger than ever because we have visionary CEOs. The fact is that most CEOs are cost cutters, and cost cutters are never great executives.

She writes how important it is to understand the critical importance of “intangibles” because it is the intangibles, not tangible assets like capital or physical facilities, that create value through initiative and innovation.

“A major intangible is the spirit of an organization,” according to Bardwick. “It is dramatically clear that, in too many of our organizations, the spirit is broken. The defensive focus on cost cutting has created a malaise that permeates all areas of the organization and squashes any optimistic sense of profit building. Recovering from that malaise starts with a reinvigorated investment in the ‘people’ aspects.”