People as Your Best Asset

Do you consider your people an asset like you do intellectual property?

Or do you consider them an asset like you do a truck or a computer?

How you consider your employees says a lot about how they are treated and how they should be treated.

To bring you up to speed, here are the two arguments about how to consider employees.

People are Business’s Greatest Asset

In today’s dynamic and continuously changing business world, it is the human assets and not the fixed tangible assets that differentiate an organization from its competitors.

Even with the continued inclusion of technology, it is the people who make the difference.  For technology to work, it must be designed and implemented by people.  Successful companies who rely on technology all invest in large human customer service teams to supply 24/7 service.  And there is little question that automated labor can provide the same level of service as an employee.  Would you rather interact with a self-service kiosk or a “service with a smile” employee?

Many confuse employees with tangible assets.  Sure, they show up in physical form, but their real value is as an intangible asset.  It is their abilities, knowledge, and experience that bring value to a business.  As an intangible asset, they cannot be immediately replaced with an equivalent version of the old employee.  The employee’s value cannot be reflected in the balance sheet; it is only reflected in the company’s market value.

People Are Not a Businesses Greatest Asset

Harvard Business Review says “people are not your greatest asset,’ but that your greatest asset is “empowering your people.” Gallup agrees that people are not your greatest asset but then identifies your managers as your greatest asset.

Although both these declarations contain some inherent confusion, they are actually saying the same thing.  While in theory, your people might be your greatest asset, in the real world we do not treat them as our greatest asset, and we do not cultivate them as our greatest asset.

So, in a practical sense, employees cannot be our greatest asset.  Companies spend far more effort on making sure their customers are happy and very little effort on ensuring job satisfaction for their employees.  Just look at the employee engagement trends.  Only 15% of all employees are engaged in their jobs.  That is not much of an asset.

Reconciliation

These two arguments are not at odds with each other.  The first argument (employees are our best assets) is a theoretical idea found in a perfect world.  The second argument (employees are not our best assets) is how the real world operates.

Both arguments, interestingly, lead us in the same direction. We either consider our employees as our best assets and invest in them, or we stop giving lip service how we treat our employees and accept the outcome, which is to give more emphasis to managers and how they empower the employees under their supervision.

As business leaders and owners, the choice is ours to make. And for me, I think the choice is obvious—to treat our employees as well as we treat our customers, and to build our company around the employees who are assets.

The Bible

The Bible is the originator of the idea of considering people as our best assets.

Luke 6:31 says.

                        Do to others as you would have them do to you.

And Proverbs 11:1 says.

                        The Lord detests dishonest scales,
but accurate weights find favor with him.

In the real world, we like to think we treat our employees as valuable assets, but the dismally low engagement rate says otherwise.  If we are to follow the teachings of the Bible, we are to value these employees and treat them with respect and honor, just as we want to be treated.

For employees to be a business’s best asset, our business needs to treat them as the best asset.  When that happens, the business will succeed, and the employees with thrive.