Staff aren’t your most valuable asset. In fact they’re not an asset at all

That’s according to Breckon Jones writing on the CIPD website.  You can read the article here:

But I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to wade through a sea of corporate lingo.

Actually, the article is a great relief to me.  You see, I’ve often argued that if our people are our greatest asset, why is it always the accountant who’s CEO and not the HR Director?

And now I know.  People aren’t our greatest asset at all.  The crux of the argument, according to Breckon (I think that’s his name, not a title) is this:

An asset is defined as “Anything tangible or intangible that is capable of being owned or controlled”.

He goes on to say that actually, we only rent skills from our staff, for as long as they’re prepared to allow us to use them.  I would have said ‘buying’ rather than ‘renting’…

Anyway, hair splitting over.

Dear old Breckon goes on to say: “Therefore, the longevity of this psychological contract is, more often than not, subject to a delicate balancing act between employee feeling engaged and having a sense of purpose and employer investing in the holistic wellness of the employee.”


Lost me, there.  And I have to say there are lots of long words throughout his article, like facilitate, psychological wellbeing and hedonistic experience of pleasure.

I’m not kidding, he actually says that!

However, the fact remains you need your corporate dictionary to really understand what Breckon is saying, so, I’m going to push the envelope and try to run it up the flagpole for you.

He says that employees rent (sell) their skills and knowledge to you as an employer and, unless you get the balance right between challenge, money, support, purpose and fun, then they’ll take their ball and go and play with someone else.

So there.

Once you wade through the morass of corporate bull in the article you get to the thing that’s really important:

Even in these tough economic time (or perhaps especially in these tough economic times) it’s about more than pay.  It’s about understanding which buttons to press to turn employees on.

You can be really formal in the way you do this, perhaps through psychometrics, or you could just get to know your staff really well.  Whatever.

If you get the balance right, people will sell their knowledge and skills to you over the long term.  If you don’t, they’ll take their knowledge elsewhere and you have to spend money (which is an asset) to replace it.

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