“Employees are your greatest asset.” You’ve probably heard this at some point, but what does it really mean? Is it just a recruiting slogan, or is it a viable approach to building a stronger business? And how can you tell when a company is serious about valuing employees and when it’s just window dressing?
And most importantly, why should valuing employees matter to a business owner?
Research shows that companies that view employees as valuable assets, and not cost centers, outperform companies that don’t. When you know what to look for, there are clear signals that prove that a company is serious about investing in its people.
Valuing people is a better business model
Investing time, attention and other resources in your team members can help build a culture that values people. When business leaders respect the time and effort of their staff to the point where it’s engrained in the identity of the business, employees are more inclined to be thoughtful about the business.
So where do you start? The key is to maximize employee engagement. People who are engaged and thinking critically about how to improve the business are your organization’s best assets.
Here’s how that translates to tangible business results.
1. Customer relationships
Your people are the face of your company to your customers. In every interaction, they’re making impressions about your company.
When your people are motivated and positive, it strengthens the bond with customers. Conversely, if they’re unfulfilled or unhappy in their role, that lack of enthusiasm can be translated to the customer.
Team members who get support, training and freedom are more likely to come up with new and better ways of working.
Great customer relationships and innovation lead to higher revenues. Enthusiastic employees who are free to iterate and innovate often find more efficient ways to work. Increased efficiency gives employees more time to learn what customers need and to take on new projects. That can lead to new ideas, new products and new revenue streams.
Employees who are happy with their workplace are also less likely to leave, which reduces hiring costs for their employer and contributes to higher profits.
4. Brand building and reputation
Not everyone in your organization will be customer-facing, but they will interact with the wider community in some way. When your employees talk about work with their neighbors and friends, do they have positive things to say? That can strengthen your company’s reputation as a great place to work.
Signs a company values their employees
How can you tell if a company is walking the walk, versus just talking the “employees are your greatest asset” talk?
Watch what the company’s (or even your own company’s) leadership does.
When it comes to valuing people, actions are more important than what the company says. Successful leaders of high-performing, engaged employees make a point to support and develop employees’ skills and motivations.
If you want to seriously value your employees, do these seven things:
1. Show employees how their work affects business outcomes
When employees understand how their work contributes to results, they’re more likely to be engaged on the job.
For instance, allow employees to job shadow someone in another department. This can allow them to see how their job function compliments another aspect of the business.
With a broader understanding of the company’s inner workings, they’re better equipped to identify areas where they could work more efficiently or to solve problems they may not have known existed.
2. Model trustworthiness
Communicate clearly with your team and show your support.
For example, when you assign a new project to your team, make sure they have all the information and resources they need to succeed. If there’s something they will need that you don’t have yet, make sure they know that you’re working on it.
3. Invest in employees
High-performing employees often seek personal and professional growth.
Guide your team members toward training, development and mentorship programs in your company and in the community. Enable your employees to develop skills that are personally fulfilling and help them do their jobs better and more efficiently.
If an employee has everything they need with your company, they’ll be less likely to look for a new job. Engaged and content employees are also more likely to provide the discretionary effort that drives innovation and productivity.
4. Encourage team members to try new things
Delegate responsibilities that you believe they’re ready to handle.
For example, the employee who’s great at setting up webinars for your team may be ready to start leading them.
5. Build a strong community
Successful leaders have a clear mission for their team, create a supportive culture, seek employee feedback and value good communication. Their employees feel free to raise issues that interfere with the mission and to share ideas to help the team achieve its goals.
Without a strong community and clear mission, employees are more likely to look out for themselves instead of the whole company.
6. Let engaged employees innovate
When employees are engaged, well-trained and supported, they need freedom to keep growing and innovating.
Good leaders make that possible by guiding staff to be productive and creative without micromanaging them.
7. Clear a path for your team’s success
As a leader, your job is to remove obstacles so your team can innovate, produce and succeed.
Be on the lookout for those roadblocks. And keep building a team culture of trust and empowerment so your people feel comfortable asking for your help with barriers they run into.
The saying that “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers” is true. By taking these steps, you become the manager that people want to work for, which can help you retain your best people.
Hiring with care
Developing your employees as assets starts with making the best possible hiring decisions. That may require learning some new best practices and letting go of old habits like “going with your gut.”
Intuition can help you evaluate people, but it has potential pitfalls like unconscious bias that can hinder your ability to identify the best candidates. A more effective approach is to include “people analytics” to find the right person for each role. For example:
- Choose a few core competencies for each role and decide how much weight to give each competency.
- Write interview questions for each competency area.
- Rate candidates in each area after each interview.
- Compare candidate scores before making an offer.
Summing it up
Valuing your employees as your most important assets starts with good planning and making careful hiring decisions. Every new employee can affect the success of your organization — for better or worse. Take each hire seriously and treat each new employee as the asset they can be.
For more ideas on making your people your greatest asset, get our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.