“You are the Most Valuable Asset” – Is it true?
For decades, top executives and business managers have echoed the platitude “our employees are our most valuable assets.” It’s a saying that begins to sound empty as we walk through the corridors and halls of many corporations, attend an executive or town meetings, or visit to a corporate website. Far from being valued for a profound commitment to company goals, or being rewarded for making meaningful progress, many of a company’s most “valuable assets” — its employees — are sidelined when it comes to reward and recognition or even equality.
Building up ‘Valuable Assets’
The heart of every organisation is its people. One of the most vital relationships in business environments is that between manager and employee. Along with structures that promote learning and growth in the capacity of each individual, managers who care and are committed are crucial to retaining the “best of the best” in personnel. They have the greatest influence.
Employees who are discontented find ways to disengage rather than leaving their jobs, and if left without motivation or encouragement, will shift from being an asset to being a liability to the organisation. Enabling self-directed teams, combining tasks, bringing people into contact with clients, and assigning tasks on rotation are all ways “valuable assets” can both feel more valued and be more valuable.
At the bottom of the to-do list
Many employees, Millennials in particular, feel that the companies they work for care only for profits, and leave valuable people underutilized. Some employees are subjected to seagull managers who show a complete disconnect between their inappropriate management style and frequent staff turnover.
Few organisations align with progressive trends in employee engagement, that show us rather than tell us the business places value in its people, and the ones that don’t often display some recognisable scenarios:
— Acting on the idea of cutting costs, management come up with exit-lists each quarter, driving fears of job-cuts into the heart of the workforce.
— A top-performer is told to pack up and leave without notice, sending shockwaves through others in the same division.
— Performance ratings are used to threaten employees, causing panic.
— A manager gives a pay-rise to someone who supports his wrong decisions, and this bias presses others into low productivity.
— A low-performer who is late every day is given awards because of their relationship with the CEO, while negating thoughts that hard work leads to reward.
— Forceful managers push for an employee to sign an illegal document, with the say (“It will be okay”) under threat of losing their job, spreading secrecy and lies into the core of the organisation.
— Executives make blanket decisions to fire a certain percentage of a company’s employees, and the exit list ends up having high performers and “outside” the network employees, while neglecting toxic employees, low performers and those who never tend to share their knowledge for 20+ years, causing people to lose faith.
— During annual bonus distributions, a CEO shows favour to close friends and family members without acknowledging employees who deliver consistent productivity and performance, causing decreased moral and motivation spirit among others.
It’s evident from scenarios like these that some corporations have become unstable through declining loyalty, and the deterioration of employees with high potential. Does this tendency to keep employees at the bottom of the to-do list serve any good ends?
Staying in the cage or setting out
These scenarios reveal that being a most “valuable asset” means, in many instances, belonging to the cluster of people who – at least for the moment – find themselves in favour with top management. It is conditional.
Since only a few people in a company having thousands of employees are granted these limited positions of special favour, and these may vary according to the manager’s fancy, the declaration, “our employees are our most valuable assets” may be a whopper of a lie. It is only meaningful if it is related to tangible financial reward plans and recognition programmes for employees that are implemented through and through, in fairness and with consistency.
Being rewarded and acknowledged for making meaningful progress towards company goals – rather than ending up trapped, burnt out, anxious, and fearful because your organisation fails to see or hear you – is the only scenario that can overcome a feeling of disintegrating unity.
In the same way that no-one can afford to lose their heart – the body’s most valuable asset – no-one can afford to lose employees with promise, potential and true merit. Transparent standards and structures that support the growth and advancement of all individuals within an organisation are its lifeblood.
Towards a new equity
Honouring the maxim that the people in a firm are its most “valuable assets”, means reducing the invisibility and increasing transparency, rewarding employees through salary raises and meaningful benefits, and encouraging a culture of learning at every level in an organisation. Top management has to find ways to understand the inner work life of employees, and to respond to survey results by making meaningful progress towards fair and consistent standards that ensure job security and compensate people well for their work. This is both good for business and affirms the value of each person, building an ethos of trust.
At the end of the day, there is only one thing that distinguishes one organisation from another, and this is its people. If you hear or read “employees are our most valuable assets”, keep smiling and examine whether this is conditional only on performance excellence or something else.