People are gullible, or as my late father used to say ‘there is a sucker born everyday!’ When companies make statements like ‘People are our biggest assets’, the general consensus is they must be great companies. But I ask you, where is the relationship in that statement? Imagine saying that your partner, wife or husband is your biggest asset. That would be an absolutely daft statement to make, and it would definitely not be appreciated by your partner.
Then why would we accept this as a good statement at work? Basically we need to admit that we have prostituted ourselves, and that we are believing the lies we are being told. We do it for money and the companies see us as the vehicle that will make more money for them. Certainly that is how companies exist and should be how they sustain themselves, however there is an increasing trend for companies to pay out more money to shareholders and invest less in the future of the company, thus undermining the sustainability model.
Then they have the cheek to call you an asset! Really? If they are not prepared to invest in the future of the company, they are viewing people as a depreciating asset.
When we begin to understand relationships, we realise that if we call people assets, we are actually as far from a team player as we could ever be.
There is absolutely no trust in calling people assets. Do you see your children as assets? That may be the case if you were simply having them to sell them as child labour. No – our children are our future and we invest our lives into them, without living our lives vicariously through them, although we know many parents do try that route.
If our hope is to succeed in life and in business, we need to view people in the same way we view our children. We want the best for them, yet they are expected to do what is expected of them.
If we give our children the right amount of responsibility, they grow up to be good citizens. In the same way let’s work alongside people, investing in them and nurturing them to be better corporate citizens. This way they will know we have expectations, but also that we will be looking out for them so that they can be more productive.
If our intention is to grow better people within our organisations, I still think it would be a bad idea to call them assets. Let’s drop the jargon and call them people. If we see people as people who have value I am convinced we will treat our people differently.
By Rich Simmonds
Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.