ORLANDO, Fla. — The lack of investment in human capital is the greatest problem facing the food industry today, according to Rajiv Lal, a professor of retailing at Harvard Business School.
Lal, a speaker at last week's Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Executive Conference here, said the problem manifests itself at store level and throughout middle and top management posts.
“People are taken for granted in the food business,” he said. “It's an army of people who are doing all the work, but we don't think of them even though the contribution of employees is usually cited as the reason for a business' success.”
He asserted that training tends to lag in all economic conditions because of this paradox: If the economy is poor and revenues are down, then a lack of resources is cited as a reason to forgo training. If the reverse is true and the economy and business is good, a lack of time is cited as a reason to forgo training.
The solution, he said, is to come to grips with the importance of training and treat it on the budget as research and development. That encourages the idea that training is actually an asset that will return benefit, not simply a cost center.