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People in Organizations: Why Some Companies Give So Little Thought to Their “Greatest Asset”

Everyone has heard the statement, “people are your company’s greatest asset,” but is that always true?

Business Team in Shippensburg PA working on a strategic plan with Heather from Hockenberry Management Consulting

We all know that without people, nothing happens; there is no marketing or sales, no production or delivery, no administration or support, no management or leadership, and ultimately no strategy or direction for the company. There is no mission or vision without people. A company without people is a meaningless entity, empty and void of purpose, wandering aimlessly about, headed nowhere, and accomplishing nothing.

The people of a company plan, organize, and execute its goals and objectives, accomplishing its mission and serving its customers by providing valuable products and services.

They are a team working on a common cause and performing their individual roles while communicating and collaborating to accomplish the company’s mission. Without a company’s people, products are not sold or produced, customers do not receive what they have purchased, and investors gain no return.

So why do some companies still give so little thought to their “greatest asset” or even treat their people as an afterthought? Let’s explore several of the many possibilities here:

  • Some business leaders with responsibility in this area do not value people. Rather than recognizing people as unique and wonderful, having value as individuals, and being an essential part of a team working toward a common cause, they may see people as a means to an end. Believing that people are merely cogs in the wheel results in actions that minimize not only the value of people but also the potential positive impact that people could have on the company. If this attitude is held by leadership, it is displayed by leadership, and it reverberates throughout the organization to anyone and everyone paying attention. Additionally, it influences people-related policies and practices.

  • Most business leaders are very busy, given the ever-increasing challenges of business management and having multiple responsibilities and possibly roles (i.e., wearing multiple hats). This is especially true in small to mid-sized companies. The result is that leaders are busy in other functional areas, putting out fires and responding to squeaky wheels, therefore not having time or energy to place appropriate importance and attention on the management system of the business, which consists of the people themselves, as well as the policies and practices affecting them and their work.

  • It is natural for business owners and investors to expect a return on their investment, and it is very common for them to expect that return relatively quickly. This short-term mentality causes leadership to emphasize immediate revenue-generating, expense-reducing, and profit-producing activities, whereas investments in people and the management system are often longer-term oriented. Investment of resources is prioritized to ensure short-term gains are achieved, often at the expense of longer-term improvements.

  • People are people; they are not machines or tools. This means they have emotions, feelings, opinions, beliefs, biases, personal values, strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, experience, issues, problems, etc., that are often different from those of other team members and often different from the company’s leaders. The resulting complexities can confuse the leadership and people in the company, sometimes causing disappointment, frustration, resentment, disengagement, etc., making communication and cooperation difficult. This, of course, does not help to accomplish the mission. The truth is that some leaders cannot deal with all these variables effectively. Some might even feel like they are in the grey zone, where there are no simple black-and-white answers, and they don’t know which way to turn.

  • Some business owners and managers do not know how to create an effective management system which is the people part of the business. The management system is one of three core business processes, along with business strategy and operational processes. It includes many policies and practices related to people within the business, including recruiting and hiring, training and developing, motivating and managing, involving and engaging, recognizing and rewarding, etc. Leaders with expertise in other functional areas often do not possess the knowledge and experience necessary to develop a healthy management system.

Whether recognized and acted upon appropriately or not, people truly are your company’s greatest asset. How, then, could leadership improve this area of the business? The answer to this question depends on the situation, but here are a few considerations that might be helpful:

  1. Recognize that people are uniquely wonderful and inherently valuable. People want to be treated well and deserve to be treated with respect.

  2. Understand that people want to make a meaningful contribution to a cause bigger than themselves, e.g., the company’s mission. Everyone is an important contributor, regardless of a person’s role within the business.

  3. Acknowledge that a properly designed and functioning management system is necessary for people to reach their full potential and perform well as individuals and as a team.

We realize that this article provides a brief overview of a complex topic having extreme importance in all businesses intending to perform better and grow in some way. If we can be of further assistance, please contact our team.


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