When given the freedom to do so, we can add great value to the organisations in which we work. Perhaps this is why we often hear of people described as an organisation’s best asset.
It’s not true. People are not an asset. An asset is something that can be traded at will, and over which an ‘owner’ has physical control. Describing people as an asset is not only technically incorrect, but it also undermines that very belief of enabling people to create value.
Let me explain from my own experience. I once worked for a multi-national marketing company. My role involved significant commitment as I frequently travelled at short notice and spent many occasions talking with colleagues from different time zones. It was often inconvenient but I loved the work and I believed I was part of something special.
One morning, after a particularly late night of teleconferences I arrived at my desk. On it was the company annual report. I started reading with particular interest the Chairman’s report because they were relatively new to the company and this was the first communication I had ever seen from them.
I will never forget one sentence that jumped from the page: “To our employees, at your best you are our greatest asset.” Ouch!
I looked up from the report and around the open plan office, taking notice of colleagues going about their duties. I wondered – are they at their best – and how is that decided? I felt cold and uninspired. And I knew the magic of the last 8 years working with this company, and some truly amazing people, had been broken. It would never be the same. That one sentence told me all I needed to know about our new Chairman and where he would take our company; and it turned out exactly as I thought.
‘Asset’ is a financial term. Nobody wants to know that they mean only an amount of money to someone, especially only on a good day. Let’s just accept that we are all a financial cost to our employer (even if that employer is ourselves). While we’re accepting home truths let’s also accept that, because we are a cost, it must be our capacity to create and add value that is important.
So let’s focus on what is important:
We all like to do inspiring work,
We all have unique talents, skills and capabilities,
We all have the capability to expand those talents, skills and capabilities, and
We all have the freedom to leave an employer (even if that employer is ourselves).
We have the right to ask, and be answered
How can I do better tomorrow if I don’t know how I did today?
How does what I do contribute to the organisations objectives?
What can I do better that will expand my capacity to help the organisation achieve its objectives? And,
What can the organisation provide me to help me better contribute to the organisation’s objectives?
We have the right to have our performance measured and monitored so that we can understand how our work is meaningful.
Self-interest binds us together. As employers we have the responsibility to create sustainable work environments where people are allowed to contribute. As employees we have the responsibility to understand why we do what we do.
When we all move our paradigm from asset management to productivity and value creation then we also remove the constraints that prevent exceptional performance. We build confident and focused organisations where trusting and lasting relationships transcend employment contracts and policy manuals. It starts with you.
H Agent 002