Power Assessment: Are People Your Greatest Asset?
There is an old saying on Wall Street that the company’s assets go up and down with the elevator every day.
When I went through orientation at Procter & Gamble, the trainer explained to me that the philosophy of the company is that its people are its greatest asset. He stated that if the company lost all of its assets and kept it entire organization, it could rebuild itself in ten years. There is certainly nothing to substantiate that statement, but it gives some perspective of the value that Procter & Gamble places on the people it hires and the people it keeps.
“People are our greatest asset” is a common statement among business leaders. I have read articles in which writers have stated initially that people are not a company’s greatest asset. What I find is that the purpose of these articles is to create a headline for attention and to draw the reader off topic. For example, some writers argue that people management is more important than the people themselves are. What is rather obvious is these writers are confusing the issues of assets and asset management, entirely for effect.
Dishonest people are liabilities. Other writers talk off topic about people as an asset and confuse the issue by drawing attention to brilliant people whose conduct brought companies down: to mention a few, Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom), Kenneth Lay (Enron) Bernie Madoff (Madoff Investment Securities LLC), John Rigas (Adelphia Communications Corporation), and others. Obviously, dishonest people are liabilities.
The greatest assets of a company are sometimes one or two great founders: Ed Land (Polaroid Corporation), Ernest Gallo and Julio Gallo (E.&J. Winery), Sam Walton (Walmart), Steve Jobs (Apple), and others.
Of course, great companies devote a great deal of money and time to train and manage the people in their organization. These organizations start with training their people from the beginning. As people continue through each level of development and as the company changes it products and operations, great companies continue to train their people to do their job. The skills of the people grow as they grow in responsibility and as the company grows.
Employees vary in value based on how well they do their job and how much they learn about their company and their industry. This fact is great news for people who work harder, take better care of themselves mentally and physically, are more conscientious about their performance, and build relationships within and for their employer. This places the asset management in the hands of employees at least to have a role in managing their career.
The best places to find the greatest people are at the companies that place the greatest value on people as assets: General Mills, Zappos, USAA, Salesforce.com, and hundreds of other companies. As a corporate recruiter, I found training companies that hired too many great people for the growth of the company would experience relatively high turnover. These companies were gold mines for sources to fill the needs of my clients.
The greatest talent does not always make for the greatest assets. From a stability standpoint, companies that value a mix of talented, experienced, developmental hires combined with people who progress less rapidly find that some of the less talented more long-term people can offer tremendous value. These people stay in the same job as people progress beyond them. The great value of these people in the long-term is their ability to build a strong asset base to support the company. The military has most clearly defined these roles in creating the ranks of enlisted men and officers. The enlisted pay grade E-7 is the backbone of the United States military.
Image: Naotake Murayama/Flickr