What is the most important asset of any organization? Is it their physical property – buildings, computers, and desks? Is it their capital reserves in the bank? How about their portfolio of intellectual property? While all of the above items are important, they pale in comparison to the value of their people. An organization’s employees take care of and use the physical property, spend capital to fund activities to grow the business, and exploit intellectual property for economic gain. It’s the people who make it all happen – without them, everything else is just an inanimate object. Unfortunately, people like Jack Welch failed to see their value and changed the market to see people as nothing but another expendable resource. In the eyes of people like Jack Welch, people are no different than the wood used to make a door, the plastic used to make a consumer good, or a glob of solder used to make electronic goods. People became a commodity instead of human beings.
How has this impacted the workplace? We see more and more that people don’t work for an organization for very long. Changing jobs every few years is increasingly popular. Of course, this is only logical – why would you want to work for an employer who didn’t value you as a human being? Businesses do whatever it takes to keep employee pay as low as possible while increasing the CEO’s pay. When annual raises come due, the lower the number the better. Employees quickly see that if they want to get ahead, they will need to find another job making more. What if employers gave raises as if each employee was a potential new hire and they wanted to ensure they took the offer?
What would happen if the business world changed to value people over profits? What if companies placed their people first – ahead of profits, ahead of the customer, and ahead of the shareholder? Sounds radical, but companies who have implemented such policies have seen higher employee retention and greater employee happiness. But most importantly, that greater happiness directly translated to happier customers who then engaged in more business with the organization and improved shareholder value. Countless books on the topic of servant leadership and employee-focused business models exist, and they all show the exact same thing – employees who feel valued are more productive and happier to be at work.
A book I recently read said that – as a small business owner – I need to “fall in love with my customer”. The notion is that I should treat my customer like they are the most important thing on earth. Treat them like I treat my wife. Treat them as if I want nothing more than to spend time with them. When I treat my customers that way, my customers won’t want to leave. That same idea applies to employees – what if businesses treated their employees like they loved them?