"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!