"Our people are our greatest asset.
Unfortunately, for many organizations, this is simply a statement (a statement, by the way, that makes me cringe as I wrote in my last blog). The organization actually revolves around something else. It may be shareholders. It may be production. Perhaps it's simply the comfort and enrichment of the top corporate execs.
Explore other organizations, though, and you'll see action that backs up this statement. They invest in their people through training, offer great benefits, and develop a healthy corporate culture. And organizations put the utmost value on their employees reap huge rewards such as attracting the best talent and organizational growth and success.
I experienced this "people are our greatest asset" value last year at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa as my mom battled health issues. But Saint Francis doesn't say asset. They start with a Core Value of Dignity which they define as, "Respecting each person as an inherently valuable member of the human community and as a unique expression of life." Saint Francis applies this Core Value to both employees and their "customers."
As my mom's kidneys started to fail, she entered Saint Francis. While the entire staff -- doctors, nurses, technicians, facilities and cafe employees -- was incredibly friendly and helpful, one nurse stood out among everyone.
Meaghan was my mom's nurse and was truly an angel. You could tell she believed in the Dignity value by how she spoke to and interacted with her coworkers, both up and down the org chart. She cared about my dad who was losing his wife and partner of 60 years. She went out of her way to accommodate every wish my dad spoke and offered my dad a "servant" mentality. Most of all, Meaghan cared for my mom even though my mom didn't realize she was being cared for.
Watching Meaghan and others as both a son losing his mom and as a bystander who promotes excellent people strategies, I thought Saint Francis must be doing something right. How can everyone across the board be so respectful of each other as well as "customers?" Well, without even looking at the Saint Francis website, I could have told you they valued people simply by experiencing and observing how Saint Francis employees acted. Their value was truly lived out day after day, one interaction at a time.
Perhaps Saint Francis, when "talking" about Dignity as a Core Value, they have the patient front-of-mind. But that's the thing about Valuing Others. It's a mindset that applies to all individuals: customers, employees, vendors, and even the surrounding community.
I'm thankful Saint Francis believes in human dignity and has a mindset that revolves around valuing people. And I will join them by doing my best to spread the "Value Others" message. Our jobs, our country, and our world will benefit if we truly embrace the unique person we all are.
Will you join me?
"Two tickets: $46.
Two hot dogs, two popcorns, two sodas: $32.
One autographed baseball: $50.
Real conversation with 11-year-old son: Priceless.
There are some things money can't buy."
You probably recognize the above as a MasterCard commercial. If I were to apply that creative idea to an employee going through New Hire orientation, it may sound something like this:
New laptop: $1,499
Wireless keyboard and mouse: $36.
Two company t-shirts, two pens, two stress balls: $24.
New software engineer: Priceless.
Calling that new software engineer "priceless" rather than an asset is so much more meaningful and engaging. Although some organizations try, you simply can't put a price on employees. Employees are not a thing.
Sadly, many companies have that "thing" mentality by saying "people are our greatest asset." That term drives me crazy! Computers, airplanes, robots, buildings -- those are assets. Intellectual property can be an asset. But people? They can't be bought or sold. You can't list people on a balance sheet.
People aren't "Human Capital" either. Yes, employees are human. But Human Capital is such a sterile term. It's just like "retention." Both terms are cold and without feeling. "We have a strategy to retain our humans."
Can you imagine if I applied that same mindset to my marriage? I just celebrated 30 years with my beautiful bride, Patricia. At dinner, as we clinked our wine glasses together and the candlelight was bouncing off her face, what if I had said, "Honey, I love you. And I have a plan to retain you for another year." Dinner would have ended and making it to 31 years would have come into doubt!
Companies that use those terms to describe their people, while well-meaning, miss the mark. As noted above, employees are indeed human. But as humans, each employee is different. Employees have emotions and feelings, wants and desires. Employees have different experiences and situations. Taken together, these emotions, desires, and experiences make each person unique. And given the right atmosphere, these individuals can do amazing things!
I love how Kevin Ames, Director of the O.C. Tanner Institute, puts it. "Inside every person are the seeds of greatness. An organization's responsibility is to create an environment where those seeds can bloom."
So how can organizations create that environment where people bloom, do their best work, and find gratification in their daily activities? It starts with a mindset of calling employees something other than an asset!
Organizations that are "blooming"-minded rather than asset-minded will treat their people quite differently. Companies with an asset mindset will treat their employees like any other asset, manipulating them just like computers or office furniture. Companies that view employees as unique individuals, on the other hand, will make decisions based on the impact those decisions have on their peoples' lives.
"Assets" want to work hard and contribute to an organization's success. And many organizations do just fine treating their people as that important asset. However, people, when respected and valued, can power an organization to ever-higher levels of success year after year.
Ever been treated like an asset? Have you experienced work as both an asset and as a real person? Please share your story!
I wasn’t very active in blogging during the second half of 2017. I made a post in September but other than that, nothing.
Sadly, it wasn’t a six-month vacation or a sabbatical that had kept me away from the keyboard. It was my mom.
After battling health issues the last couple of years, her body finally gave out last August. During this challenging period, Patricia (my wife) and I spent a lot of time driving up and down I-75 between Dallas and Tulsa. And even though I had four hours each direction, I simply wasn’t in the mood to blog.
Most of our Tulsa time was spent either in the hospital visiting Mom or just hanging out with Dad. Even in the midst of these trying times, we built some great family memories (by the way, after 60 years of marriage, Dad certainly misses Mom but overall he’s doing pretty well).
Visiting my mom during those many long days spent at two different hospitals and a skilled nursing facility, I saw good care and bad care. I noticed the difference between people who do their job just to earn a buck and people who do their job because they love it. And in a hospital, employees who love what they do most likely love people as well.
Being a nurse, a technician, someone who changes bedding or cleans a room — these are difficult, emotional positions. So it may not be the actual work an employee loves, but it’s the people, both the “customers” and the colleagues, that drive a nurse or tech to interact in a caring manner.
During these last six to twelve months, like most people, I’ve also seen our world descend into a very dark, even mean-spirited place. Politics. Race. Gender. I’ve seen friends and even families split over these difficult topics. Seems as if we can’t be family or friends anymore if we voted for different people.
Although I’ve been pretty silent for a while, I have learned something. Experiencing good and bad hospital staffs and seeing the rise of incivility have led me to change my business and writing focus just a bit. I’m not leaving Corporate Culture or Employee Engagement behind. Leadership is important, too. These are key business drivers so I’ll still give my thoughts on these areas often.
But the focus of my work is now going to be Valuing Others. I’m convinced it all starts there. To be a good leader, you must Value Others. To build a healthy corporate culture and increase employee engagement? It must revolve around Valuing Others. Bosses must value direct reports, direct reports must value bosses, and colleagues must value colleagues.
Why the new focus? Because we’re losing our civility, both in society and in the workplace. What used to be a healthy conversation about a difference of opinion has turned into name calling and defriending on Facebook.
But if we Value Others, truly value them as a human being and the similarities we share such as the love of sports, movies, or Peanut M&Ms, then perhaps we can engage in that tough talk about our differing opinions.
So please come back often. Please comment on my comments. And please bring others into the conversation by sharing these posts.
You see, it’s not about me — it’s about others.