X? The Human Factor

I love sleek designs. I love Apple. So I couldn’t help but notice the changes at JC Penney, even without mention of its then new CEO. That is now old news.

They were exciting changes! JCP looked cleaner, more avant-garde should I say, definitely closer to my taste of design. Then I got excited about the new check-out system. I was a little bit concerned about the idea that by 2014 all human check-out points were to disappear…but I could have been totally misinformed.

However, I am no unconditional JC Penney customer who defected to a less favored store. In fact, I am not what one would call a loyal customer of any store in particular. I am just an “observer”. So I could tell that as the aisles got neater and wider, signs clearer, prices more defined, customers made themselves less visible. Products didn’t seem to have changed drastically however, beside the new Martha Steward addition. (that is also old news by now). But again, I probably missed something and traditional JC Penney customers might have a different opinion…well, streamlining was somehow everywhere, no doubt about it.

I am not going into length about product lines of any retailer. One thing is sure: what you see in one store, you will soon see in another. What would make the customer choose yours in particular? Well, various elements come into play of course. Let’s just talk about the human element.

The major human element is corporate thinking first of all: strategies, of course. They are planned and designed by humans. That is a defining factor. No matter the mission and the vision, strategies will lead you to success or failure. This is at least a strong assumption...
Is there a "BUT" coming ahead? In business such as services, the consumer leads if not dictates the direction of your business. That is not to say that marketing principles cannot be applied. In fact, old practices have spoiled consumers and back-fired on retailers. Stakeholders react sometimes negatively to changes. We can change brand, give a brand a new value, bring in many changes, and yet, feel that we are stumbling. What is that X that we cannot define? Do we ever think that above all it is the human, sometimes impalpable, factor that we miss or undermine? So, what is that X factor exactly?

© 2013 AR_HRCom - X Factor

It is the HR factor and its ramifications, or its linkages to your business success or failure. It is the way your employees are reacting to the organization and changes, the way they are communicating those changes to your customers, and the way your major stakeholders are reacting to what they see and hear from your employees. To JCPenney's credit, I have to say that employees I have encountered in their stores seemed to have been a great example of ethics: no whispers, no long faces, no insinuations of any sort. Some actually appeared to be really enthused about the technological changes...That is not always the case in all organizations. And it is in those organizations that the X factor enters into play.

The X, impalpable HR factor is your employee engagement. Engaged employees will be enthused about your changes and your products. They will reflect and radiate that enthusiasm. They will communicate it to your customers. That X factor will generate or reduce traffic. That X factor is subject to your internal policy and most importantly to your practices. Ever wondered how schools recruit students who are in charge of welcoming visitors? It is for some good reasons that they are called ambassadors. How do you think you treat yours and communicate with them? Think of this: They ARE the reflection of your communication and HR practices, at many levels.


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