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Humanizing growth- Three keys to success

Humanizing growth: Three keys to success

Frank van den Driest
Institute for Real Growth

While all companies prioritize delivering top-line growth, it’s a focus on people that sets the leaders apart from the rest.

Recent research from the Institute for Real Growth (IRG), which included more than 500 interviews with senior business leaders and over 1500 survey respondents across 73 countries, found that companies that overperform on revenue growth care about the growth of their people as well as the growth of their businesses– while underperformers were more solely focused on protecting their financial performance.

Overperforming companies understand the transformative power of people when it comes to sustainable business growth. This includes not just employees, but also their customers and users. For example, Google tracks things like how often users come back to a product, how long they used each service, and how loyal they are. These are all very people-centric metrics - they’re not about the bottom line. Google has confidence that if they keep the interests of their users first, growth will follow.

The IRG research process revealed that in interviews, business leaders of overperforming companies envisaged a future where a more humanized idea of growth plays a much greater role, becoming an umbrella that overarches all other business activities.

Haidilao is a Chinese hot pot chain taking Asia by storm, with over $1.5 billion in revenue and an annual growth rate of some 35 percent. They have achieved this by being obsessed with serving their colleagues, their consumers, and their communities. That means policies like providing equity stakes to their managers, providing excellent starting pay and benefits for all employees, and drawing management solely from internal promotions. The customer experience, meanwhile, is focused on entertainment: If a waiter sees a patron having hotpot alone, he or she will place a big cuddly soft toy in the seat opposite so they feel less lonely. Waiters sing songs for customers’ birthdays, and visitors can even get a massage while waiting for their food or table.

Another example of humanized growth is Cisco. When the company was facing some big challenges, they looked to what their own people were passionate about, and what their own teams and managers were proposing. Out of those proposals Cisco codified a social contract. Cisco also created internal startup teams to encourage employees to pursue their passions. Once these teams have achieved their goals, Cisco brings them back into the fold and celebrates not only their successes, but even their failures – because the company believes in “winning together” and sharing growth. This approach very quickly achieved a turnaround after years of stagnant revenue growth.