Machines and people can coexist, work together more productively

August 15, 2012
Valuing People and Technology in the Workplace: A Competitive Advantage Framework.

We live in the age of technology, and in many businesses, machines have replaced workers. In Valuing People and Technology in the Workplace, Claretha Hughes proposes a framework that will allow managers to get the most out of their workers by valuing them on the same level they value technology.

Hughes, an associate professor of and at the University of Arkansas, spent 20 years working in corporate America and consulting for . She noticed that as technology and machines became a continually growing part of the workplace, the people who work around the machines, operate the machines and perform maintenance on the machines became undervalued.

“I want people to think about how machines and people can co-exist effectively,” Hughes said.

Using her two decades of experience, Hughes developed the “Hughes Value Creation Model for Organizational Competitive Advantage.” The model is based on five values: location, use, maintenance, modification and time, as well as three organizational perspectives: cognitive, behavioral and cultural. Each job environment has its own set of skills and requirements. Hughes argues that leaders must be aware of those differences and understand them in order to be effective.

Location Value: As a person becomes more comfortable in the work place, his or her performance improves, providing value to the organization. Location value also helps determine team cohesion. If members of a team are spread out across a floor or building, they are less likely to feel and act like a team.

“In some instances before the company ever bought a piece of new equipment, we tore down walls and built entirely new spaces to house the equipment, but we’d bring an employee in, and pretty much wherever they ended up was where they worked,” Hughes said. There was no consideration about placing the new employee based on their understanding of the complexity of working with other people or their understanding of the organizational culture. 

Use Value: Hughes emphasizes the importance of employees effectively using their knowledge, skills and abilities on the job. By continually analyzing a team member’s improvements and the job he or she is performing, the company and the individual can increase the employee use value.

Maintenance Value: As companies change techniques, strategies and procedures over time, Hughes said that it is important to maintain the value of the employee through training, development and motivation to maintain optimal job performance.

Modification Value: As the expectations of both workers and managers are better understood, modifications to knowledge, skills, abilities and performance are made to better achieve those expectations.

Time Value: According to Hughes, time is the most important of all the values, and understanding how to manage time makes an organization more effective and builds the morale of team members.

A second part of the model is about perspective. Perspectives are the foundation of any organization. Hughes identified three primary perspectives — cognitive, behavioral and cultural — each with its own set of initiatives that can be used to improve the company.

Cognitive: Academic institutions, for example, are typically thought of as cognitive, meaning that the emphasis is on learning and conceptual and contextual thought processes.

Behavioral: Companies that produce goods operate based on the behavioral perspective. The emphasis for behavioral type organizations is on the “technological impact on the workplace rather than employee roles.” The feelings of the employees are not the primary focus; their ability to operate technology is the focus.

Cultural: The culture of an organization covers everything from traditions and activities to how employees relate to their bosses. The motivation of a team and the value of employees’ feelings of self-worth are influenced directly by the culture of the organization.

Hughes has used the model successfully for over a decade in industry. She hopes her model will help companies improve their productivity by emphasizing the importance of the human worker in the company. This is not a book about how people should be more like machines, she said. Rather, this book provides guidance that can help employers and managers value their employees the same as they value the , instruments and tools that make up their company.

Explore further: Engaged employees are good, but don't count on commitment

Related Stories

Diversity in workplace enhances bottom line

December 13, 2011

( -- The more diverse a company’s workforce is, the more loyal, happy and productive its employees tend to be, according to a new study led by a Ryerson University professor.

How to avoid employee depression in a recession

November 29, 2010

As employees become increasingly anxious about job security and financial worries during an economic recession, satisfaction with the job they have, commitment to their company and engagement with their work are all affected ...

Identifying the arrogant boss

July 24, 2012

( -- Arrogant bosses can drain the bottom line because they are typically poor performers who cover up their insecurities by disparaging subordinates, leading to organizational dysfunction and employee turnover.

Recommended for you

Identifying major transitions in human cultural evolution

July 26, 2017

Over the past 10,000 years human cultures have expanded from small groups of hunter-gatherers to colossal and complexly organized societies. The secrets to how and why this major cultural transition occurred have largely ...

When should the police use confrontational tactics?

July 25, 2017

Citizens depend on police to provide public safety while maintaining the trust of the community. How can democratic societies balance these two, often conflicting, aims—given citizens' often divergent views over basic tenets ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.