What is the difference between a work environment treating people as assets and one that treats people as numbers? We all have heard the phrases of “people our treasures inventory” or people are our assets. What does it actually mean and how does that look like.
When employees are treated as assets the work environment looks like :
People who are happy to go to work
They are feeling well and productive at their workplace. Assets are precious and so these employees will be loving what they do and be proud of it. They thrive be more productive and also boost the companies reputation. Talent is an important resource employees are key to the reputation of any company as an employee. Not only do great reviews on pages like Glassdoor help. Employees are also the best source of attracting new talent. When I worked at Salesforce.com and Indeed.com our employees were the number one source of referrals for hiring new talent.
Managers are not micro managing but leading their employees. Managers are first of all people managers they take care of that precious inventory – the employees. What you need to do that is being empathetic caring about those who work with you. A manager would in this environment not try to catch you doing a mistake or pointing out something wrong; they will ask what they can do to help. Management is not focusing on controlling and reporting and blaming but on people and how they can support them. Leadership requires empathy for people and being able to take responsibility. Leaders will take responsibility for their team and give credit to those who contribute to the common success.
Employees are aligned on the success of each other and the company they work for.
They are supporting each other share ideas and best practices. They will be motivated to do more if necessary when necessary, but they will not feel pressured to do so.
The World Economic Forum has just posted an article about New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian who experimented with a four day work week. Actually having employees work one day less a week made the company 20% more productive than with the fife day a week work schedule. More hours worked per week or day will not result in more productivity or better results. Companies are currently experimenting with increasing results by providing unlimited holidays home office and reduced or flexible work hours like Virgin or Peakon a SaaS software provider for more efficient employee engagement.
The company has a sustainable vision.
The company has a mission and a vision that is based on long term success versus short term. They look at a broader picture and develop a way to go forward with what they do and how it is done. Their employees input is wanted and taken seriously. They focus on taking all opinions into account and move forward with the employees on board.
The company cares for its employees
Not mainly via free food and gimmicks but rather trough empathy and support. Instead of blaming people for mistakes they will reach out and help. Leader and employees do not have to fear to speak out when something goes wrong or having to fear to appear as weak when they need help. A famous example here is Toyotas often copied model of employee engagement where in the manufacturing any employee can stop the process and ask for a discussion if they see something going wrong without being blamed but with being met by respect and an open mind to find a better solution.
Companies that treat people as a cost factor or numbers look like:
Employees hate to have to go to work.
They are afraid to get blamed, called out or caught by doing a mistake. They keep a low profile during the day and try to make it until the end of the day. Hoping to survive until it is the end of the work week. From the management there will be short term goals and in regard to micromanagement an ever changing focus on something new instead of a focus on a common goal.
The work environment has become toxic.
People do get physically and mentally exhausted and ill by it. Their opinions do not matter their point of view is disrespected. They are in an environment driven by fear, intimidation and micro management. Focus is on numbers and processes rather than on the people. This leads to a decline in morale and motivation opens up for a high staff turn over issue and is fostering an environment where people suffer rather than being productive. The leadership style is autocratic and does not want to take other opinions into consideration. It thrives on demonstrating their power over their employees instead of focusing to work with their employees.
Finger Pointing & Rumours blossom in this toxic environment.
Instead of helping each other employees will be working in an environment of distrust. The blame game will be played by everyone everyday instead of a focus on achieving something together the focus is on survival mode. Taking responsibility and sharing ideas or best practices is replaced with covering yourself and looking at failures from other fellow employees. In this working atmosphere employees will not refer their friends or family or anyone from their network to this kind of environment.
Manipulation will be the game played by management.
In this environment and pit employees against each other. Certain employees will try everything to get into their managers favourable view to get benefits no one else gets such as extra time off pay raises or preferential treatment. The results is distrust In management distrust within the company and a fatal work morale. Especially when thinking how difficult it is to attract employees in the first place this will hurt the companies reputation and make it impossible to attract top talent. Today we live in a social environment were employees can easily state their opinion about a company on sites like Glassdoor.
People are treated like numbers just simple cost factors.
There will be low or no empathy. Promises made will not be kept and everyone is just measured as a number. The emphasis is not on motivation and developing people its on getting the last out of an employee or simply getting them out. I am currently working in Spain where it is by law regulated to compensate employees when they are fired. This is empathy displayed from the society / government it is already a burden to lose the job and the income. Many managers have told me to avoid having to pay a compensation they “make people leave” they manage them out. This inhumane and unfair behaviour leads to increased stress, high absenteeism, and serious health related issues like burnout.
Why it is better to treat employees as an asset
- It leads to higher productivity
- It produces better results
- Companies who are embracing this are out-beating their competition
- It increases morale and motivation and leads to better results
- It lowers work related illness absenteeism and high turn over
- It leads to an aligned company with a powerful employee brand
- Treating employees as assets is definetly the right way and leads to increased success for the company and its employees
- Share if you enjoy a great work environment and contribute to it
- Be open to learn and grow and help others to do so if there is a people based work environment
- Speak out against toxic behaviour at the workplace and try to find a solution
- Be aware of toxic work environments and get away from them if needed before your health will be seriously impacted