When asked this question, so many business owners/CEO’s would say “Our people are our greatest asset.” Do you believe them? Or have you concluded it is just talk, something that is written on websites and plaques in corporate offices? It is easy to say, but difficult to “do”. Why would you want to work in an organization that visibly treated people as their “greatest asset“?
I remember when I was doing an internship as part of my degree program. I had gone back to school as a mature student and had worked hard accepting the fact that I was again starting at the bottom rung of the ladder, especially when it came to having my voice heard.
To my surprise I was invited to every meeting with the Director, no matter what the topic, as an excellent learning opportunity for me. I was encouraged to participate, to ask my “stupid” questions. Wow – I was empowered and committed to working hard. I felt valued and respected. I counted.
Fast forward to another company where my boss was raked over the coals because, I, a mere manager, had presented a new strategy to the senior leadership team. Wow – did that feel like a slap in the face! My energy and commitment to the company plummeted. I did not count. I was not an asset.
I encourage you to stop and reflect on the message your organization sends to its people, to think about who counts in your company. As a business owner, as a manager, and/or as an employee ask yourself “Who counts here?”. And then ask “Who should count?”.
I believe in the servant/leader concept. I have witnessed leaders shining the flashlight on the pathway to the future, and doing their best to ensure that every employee has what they need to be successful along the way. They work hard to give the employees what they need – clear direction, timely and specific feedback, fair compensation, a safe work environment, the tools and training – for success.
Clear direction is not only just the “talk” of the job description, the HR policies, the company’s vision, mission and values. It is also the non-verbal message you get when you walk around your workplace. What do you see and hear? That’s the real litmus test.
Do you see and hear people being friendly to each other, having easy conversations? Or are they one-sided conversations where the seasoned employee is over-sharing their wisdom with a newer employee. Who really counts?
Do you see and hear people repeatedly saying “Thank you” for this and that, or is the employee’s excellent performance largely ignored, because “That’s what we’re paying them for”? What is the real message of who or what counts?
Do you see and hear people checking in with their co-workers, to see how they’re doing, to find out what they need? Or are they more focused on just getting these same people to do their work, preferably faster and better?
Do you see and hear the employees conversing only with their friends, the other employees? Or are they interacting as well, by choice, with many of the newer employees, the term employees, the co-op students, the temps? Do people work hard to ensure everyone’s work load is well balanced; everyone’s learning opportunities are broad; everyone’s challenges are just high enough?
Is it every person for themselves – “You look after your future and I’ll look after mine – and do it on your own time, not on company time”? Or is there an interest in talking about what is interesting in their work? Are people told – and do they tell others – explicitly that they are valued and needed in the organization?
And if you do discover that the statement “Our people are our greatest asset” is true, what else are you likely to see and know? A higher level of happiness, empowerment and productivity among all employees which is resulting in better customer service, higher revenues, high employee retention, and the corresponding lower recruitment/replacement costs. People counting as the “greatest asset” is win win.