The Importance of People Equity

How to optimize talent in your organization

Fulfilled William Scheimann

In my work with the workplace research firm Metrus Institute, I discovered a concept we coined "People Equity." It has been powerful in helping us to understand how well people and their talents can be optimized in organizations -- in other words, being all they can be. People Equity is composed of three factors that are crucial to optimizing talent in organizations -- abbreviated as ACE (Alignment, Capabilities, Engagement). 

• People who are aligned with the organization's goals, its values, its customers, and others with whom they work
• People who have the "right" capabilities -- the competencies, information, and resources -- to meet or exceed customer or client expectations 
• People who are engaged with the organization -- and are willing to put in additional effort as needed to accomplish goals, willing to recommend the organization as a place to work, and willing to volunteer for special projects at work, or in the community 

These three ACE factors make up People Equity. While my focus here is on how we use A, C, and E in a company or organization environment, these principles hold equally true if you are an entrepreneur, a student experiencing an academic environment, a home manager, or someone creating a community environment. 

When an organization has high People Equity, the Metrus Institute has found that 
• Organizations are more profitable or reach their goals more effectively. 
• Customers are more loyal and buy more. 
• Employees stay with the organization longer. 
• Quality is higher. 

The organizations that achieve high People Equity (high alignment, capabilities, and engagement) share a distinct advantage over their competitors because they have discovered a way to optimize the talent of people in their organizations. And the individuals also win. 

What Happens When ACE is Low? 

Another way to think about how ACE affects us is to consider what happens when ACE is low. Low ACE leads to many dysfunctional consequences such as overstaffing, burnout, high rework, and low productivity.

These aren't just corporate problems -- they are individual concerns as well. People lose energy, stress levels send them over the edge, and they begin to unravel in both their work and home life. Individuals who are in situations with higher conflict and lower teamwork, face monotony or frustration due to more rework, deal with increased stress that can lead to burnout, have low energy levels, and many become apathetic or cynical. Those we have interviewed over the years describe coming home drained or overwrought, often leading to strained relationships with spouses or children. Some who can will leave the organization, but that also can create family and career disruptions. In short, low ACE hurts both the organization and the individual.

Big Bang 

But what happens when both the organization and the individual have high ACE? Bang! I know you have seen it. Individuals and teams thrive. The company, association, agency, or department often exceeds its goals, and there is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. 

Based on our case studies, focus groups, and interviews with hundreds of people, we believe that high ACE is a win-win for both the organization and the individual. Most of us have experienced that wonderful moment at work when we or someone around us is revved. The same can be said for other aspects of one's life, when they are in sync with his or her relationships, religion, or hobbies. 

While individuals and organizations both thrive when ACE is high, other players are important in creating an environment in which that can happen. That is, they are enablers that allow this Big Bang to occur. Human resources professionals, senior leaders, and immediate managers can play a major role in creating environments in which this occurs. For example, has the organization actively hired people who will feel energized in their culture? Do senior leaders provide a compelling vision of the future? Does the immediate manager value individual differences and leverage each person to his or her best strengths? 

The same can be said of relationships. Do your relationships energize or deplete you? 

Let's take a look at the drivers of alignment -- the factors that cause low or high alignment. Some typical alignment drivers include:
• The level of alignment you see between what the organization promises to deliver to customers and what the organization actually delivers 
• Your understanding of your organization's mission, strategy, and priorities 
• Your understanding of how your department fits into that plan 
• The metrics that will be used to evaluate the organization, the department, and your performance; the link between rewards and performance 

At the personal level, alignment drivers include the process for setting the goals you take on, the effectiveness of performance feedback you receive (and listen to), understanding what success looks like and the link to your rewards. 

The next important question is this: Can you control or influence those drivers? If not, you may be in the wrong job, or under the wrong boss, or in the wrong organization. To avoid prolonged misalignment and its negative consequences, consider how to create change. In the area of alignment, you most likely cannot change the level of alignment of the senior team or the direction of the company, but there are things you can do to enhance your alignment and thus reduce the stress of low alignment.

William A. Schiemann, Ph.D. is CEO of Metrus Group. He is a thought leader in human resources, employee engagement, and fulfillment and author of Fulfilled! Critical Choices: Work, Home, Life, scheduled to be released Oct. 1, 2016. For more information follow Dr. Schiemann on Twitter, @wschiemann and connect with him on LinkedIn at