What Greyhound Bus Lines is doing might be the future of business in America

Greyhound turned 100 this year — by contrast, Google is about 17 — and you can easily argue that the relevance of the brand, aside from broke-arse college kids trying to get home for holidays and/or “last-ditch options” when flights are grounded, is kind of diminished as compared to the 1950s. After all, cars are pretty much everywhere these days, and some cities are entirely based on cars (i.e. a Houston). Fast Company did a short profile on how Greyhound is trying to stay relevant, and while all of it is interesting — a road-show to 340 Greyhound terminals to talk to employees, a more concentrated focus on areas where people have less cars (i.e. NYC), and customer service training programs — the final line from the CEO is striking:

“[Greyhound’s] changing from an operational focus organization to a customer and employee-focused organization,” Leach says.

This is somewhat of a microcosm of the next 15-20 years in American business, perhaps. When affluence was more prominent (1970s, 1980s) and technology was coming into its own, organizations could afford to spend more time focusing on operations — nitty gritty and spreadsheets and delivering the most at the least cost, etc. Now, the game has shifted somewhat. Within a decade or so, the primary purchasers of goods and services will be millennials, and they want different experiences than their parents and grandparents did. On the internal side, “employee engagement” is emerging as a new major buzzword, and ways of communicating effectively at work (and training effectively) are becoming more en vogue. You may well see many organizations, even the larger ones, shift to a greater focus on people as opposed to processes. This has pretty far-reaching implications for entities like Human Resources and even how we look at (and ultimately promote) managers. What if someone got advanced primarily because they were good with people, as opposed to being good managing processes? Interesting shift, no?

Ted Bauer