Has there ever been a more trite and overused phrase?
I tweeted this cartoon from Dilbert this morning. The speed of the retweets suggested I’m not the only one who sees the humour and the contradiction within the turn of phrase.
I actually don’t agree that employees are your greatest asset. Partly because I fundamentally dislike the notion of people being defined as an asset at all. But more importantly, because I believe that for most businesses, customers are your biggest asset. Because without them, there are no employees and there is no business. That doesn’t mean I don’t see the huge value in people, of course I do. And I also recognise the critical link between the customer and the employee.
But the phrase has by its overuse, become almost meaningless. Many people trot it out, but scratch the surface and you often find a big gap between say and do.
Years ago, I worked for a recruitment agency that was fond of saying that their people were their greatest asset. But what they really meant was the people that bill the most are our greatest asset. We worked excessive hours, were expected to pick up the phone at any time of the day or night holidays notwithstanding. The pay was rubbish, and the benefits no more than the statutory minimum. There was such a blame culture that you were terrified to go on holiday as you never knew who would steal your clients or stitch you up in your absence. Did I feel like I was their greatest asset? Not so much.
To anyone who states that employees are their biggest asset, I would ask these questions. Are you paying the Living Wage? How is the work life balance of your people? What learning and development do you provide them? What is your workplace like to be in, every day? What is your turnover like, and your absence figures too? How do your employees feel about working for you? Do you live up to this statement all the time including the difficult times? Does it apply every day, or just on the website?
Calling your people a great asset is an easy thing to say, but distinctly less easy to live up to.
You really believe your employees are your biggest asset? Then prove it. With what you do, not just what you say.