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HR: Nurturing employees protects your most valuable asset

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Organizations have only two assets — people and money. Money buys the equipment, the inventory and the facilities. Employers spend considerable time managing the money of the organization. They budget it, forecast it, analyze it, report it, invest it and account for it.

But where is the corollary effort regarding people? Where is the attention to training and developing skills and critical performance management? In the majority of organizations, thoughtful attention to planning, training, coaching, developing and rewarding employees often is relegated to the last item on a long list by supervisors who already have a full plate of their own work.

Ostensibly, employees are hired because they are the best qualified for the position. Looking at the actions of employers however, it would be possible to reach a different conclusion. Employees are often not asked for opinions. They are not given the right to voice concerns about direction or processes. Information to employees is often scant and/or tardy. There is little transparency or information sharing because it is assumed that the employees won’t care or don’t need to know. It appears that effort is made to hire capable individuals but, once hired, they are treated as though they can’t be trusted to think or act in a responsible fashion.

Jennifer Jarratt of Coates and Jarratt, a futurist firm in Washington, D.C., says, “Human capital is the largest resource organizations do not own.” Every morning employees get up and make an employment decision. They decide whether they are going to continue to work for their current organization. In some cases, they decide that they’re not, and abandon their job. In other cases, they come to work, but are so disengaged that they spend their time doing everything but work.

A study conducted by the Gallup organization about 20 months ago found that 71% of employees were spending two hours in a workday surfing the Internet, making personal calls or running personal errands. Another study by Salary.com in August 2006 found that 17% of employees were actually sabotaging the employers’ efforts by deliberately irritating and driving away customers.

It doesn’t take a human resource professional to understand that people matter, or to do something about it.  Finding ways to connect to your workforce is one of the most important ways of retaining your most valuable asset. Here are some ways to accomplish that:

  • Share more information, not less. Tell employees about organizational goals and challenges. Employees understand that there are good and bad times and will appreciate knowing the current state of business.

  • Ask employees for their opinions. Be clear that they aren’t making the decision, but let them know their opinions matter.

  • Create a “we” organization. Employees can be invested in the success of the enterprise, just like managers and owners are. By referring to it as “us” or “we,” you acknowledge their connection and create an environment where everyone cares about the outcomes.

  • Plan for the future. What can employees look forward to? What additional responsibilities could be on the horizon? Working toward something is far better than just working.

  • Have fun! Laughter, camaraderie, and personal contact let people build relationships with one another. Those relationships can create a “stickiness” that retains staff.

The Gallup study summary says: “The success of your organization doesn’t depend on your understanding of economics or organizational development or marketing. It depends, quite simply, on your understanding of psychology: how each individual employee connects with your company; how each individual employee connects with your customers.”

Anthropologist Margaret Mead said it this way: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Change “citizens”  to “employees” and the statement would be just as true.

Imagine if a small group of employees could be that powerful, think how outcome altering it would be if every employee shared the same passion for excellence.

— Judy Clark, CEO, HR Answers
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