As a young engineer fresh out of school, I received a performance evaluation. My supervisors gave me glowing reviews, and I “exceeded expectations” in almost every performance metric. When I received my raise for the year, I was placed in the highest pool. That pool received a five percent raise, which was the highest raise that company policy allowed. Another engineer hired at the same time as I had been struggling and received a raise of three percent. Three percent was the lowest raise anyone could receive. At the time, I was making $30,000 per year. I can only assume that he was making something close to that same amount. At my $30,000 salary, the difference between outstanding performance and marginal performance amounted to $600 per year. It was truly demoralizing to be recognized as an exceptional performer and then receive a raise that did not seem commensurate with my effort or performance. This experience taught me a valuable lesson: Employees are either resources or assets.
Is there a difference between a resource and an asset? I believe it to be a glaring difference. A resource is something that helps you achieve a goal or desired end state. Coal is a great example. To produce power, you burn coal. The result is power, but the resource, coal, is destroyed in the process. An asset, on the other hand, is something that you cultivate to create greater future value. A “fixer-upper” house is an excellent example of that. The effort put into the fixer-upper makes a significant return on investment in the future state. These examples define the difference between viewing employees as assets or viewing them as resources.
Whether they know it or not, companies treat employees like either resources or assets. I know all too well that employees can feel like an asset or resource based on how they perceive their value to their company. It is something that leaders must address, but many struggle to do so. Today, corporate leadership faces so many external influences that it is far too easy to become externally focused and neglect the single most crucial thing that makes you successful or causes failure; employees.
All employees are assets. All employees need to be nurtured and challenged to become better people and better employees. This mindset needs to be adopted at the top of an organization and spread throughout the ranks. Employers should want their employees to grow as both employees and individuals.
Growth breeds success in life and business. Employees that feel that they are assets will thrive. They are happy employees. Happy employees lead to better employee and company performance. Employees that feel that they are resources will become demoralized. Demoralized employees struggle and often leave to pursue a healthier work environment. This creates churn and affects company morale and performance. Once this starts to happen, it is very difficult to turn around. It is far easier to maintain a healthy work environment than try to rebuild it.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Do you treat your employees as assets or resources?
- If you feel that your employees are assets, do your actions support that belief?
- If you view your employees are resources, is that a deliberate decision that has been made?
- Have you ever told your employees that they are assets and critical to your company’s success?
- Are you taking proper steps for the personal and professional development of your employees?
- Is it part of your company strategy and culture?
- Have you ever asked your employees whether they feel like an asset or resource to the company?
If you skipped directly to the bottom of the article looking for the answer, there is no magic pill that will make everything right. This article aims to promote discussion, encourage reflection on how you view your employees, and affect change.