People, Not Cattle: How To Successfully Manage Your Company’s Most Important Asset

 Most Important Asset

Your employees are your company’s most valuable asset. But you can’t manage them the way you would a dump truck or a shovel.

They’re people.

In Frank Capra’s famous 1946 Christmas movie It’s A Wonderful Life, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) finds himself pitted against the stubborn, stingy, and wealthy Mr. Potter. After George’s father dies, leaving him in charge of the Bailey Savings & Loan bank, Mr. Potter greedily offers to purchase the bank and assume control of its assets, all to squeeze more money out of the poor community of Bedford Falls.

But George Bailey protests, in one of the most compelling monologues in TV history.

“People were human beings to him [my father], but to you, a warped frustrated old man, they’re cattle. In my book, he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be.”

As a business owner or project manager, it is your job to manage people. It’s up to you to monitor their productivity, direct their labor, and assign them tasks. Because you pay your employees for their time, you get to decide their work.

This concept of paying to possess the skills and time of employees founded the concept of Human Resources. Just like a masonry company would carefully monitor their inventory of bricks, a company should also be good stewards of the human resources they are paying for.

Fast forward; the word “resource” morphs into “asset” (which emphasizes the value an employee contributes to the company beyond just their labor), and Human Asset Management is born.

For any business owner or manager, the biggest challenge in Human Asset Management is managing the employee as both a person and an asset.

In this article, we highlight how to manage employees as an asset while remembering they are first and foremost humans. We’ll offer insights on boosting work productivity and efficiency, plus tips for staying in sync with the personal needs and desires of your team. This can help you sidestep the pitfall of Mr. Potter.

1. Be All That You Can Be: Managing for Productivity

Project managers and business owners are responsible for overseeing the productivity of their employees, and ensuring that the company is delivering on its deadlines. Slow and steady may win the race, but it doesn’t win the job bid, so it’s important stay current on project progress.

However, when productivity sags, managers with the mindset that employees are assets begin to make it worse. Without trying to understand why productivity is slipping, they rashly demand employees “work faster or else”. But what if the employee reasonably cannot?

These “asset-before-human” managers may even resort to threats, like leveraging job security if productivity doesn’t increase.

But does productivity actually improve with mean threats and unreasonable demands? No!

This sends productivity into a tailspin, and even causes employees to churn and leave the company.

There is a better way.

A wise manager remembers that employees are humans and not just your most important asset. They also understand that productivity has many factors. It’s possible that employees are overworked, so their productivity is low. Even simply not having clear job directions can diminish an employee’s ability to complete their work.

Through listening and caring, a human-minded manager knows how re-energize lagging projects, minimize goldbricking and employee disengagement, and keep projects on the right track – all while keeping a healthy work environment that values the employee’s needs.

2. Work Smarter, Not Harder: Managing for Efficiency

If you’ve read Grimm’s Fairy Tales, you’ll recall the Brave Little Tailor, who ventures alone into the world, despite being very tiny.

Along his way, he meets an evil giant unwilling to let him pass. The tailor offers a challenge: if the strong giant can squeeze water from a rock, the tailor will turn around; but if the tailor can squeeze water from a rock, the giant will let him continue on down the road.

When the giant fails to squeeze water from roadside stone, the clever tailor reaches into his pocket, grabs the cheese he’s carrying, and squeezes it until the whey leaks out. Victorious (and with sticky hands), the tailor merrily skips away.

The tailor did something the giant did not: he worked smarter, not harder. He saved time. He was efficient.

As a manager or business owner, you are always on guard against anything that wastes your company’s resources. You want everything and everyone to be as efficient as possible. You notice inefficiency immediately.

But here’s the truth: 75% of workers don’t believe they have access to the correct tools for their job. Despite best intentions, employees’ efficiency suffers because they lack the tools they need to complete their tasks.

As a manager, to focus on your employees as humans is to enable them to succeed in every task they attempt. This takes on many forms. It could be a project manager taking the time to explain a new piece of equipment to a worker, or a company deciding to use electronic time tracking software because messy paper timesheets slow down payroll processing.

Even human assets need assets of their own to do their best work. A company that understands its own role in employee efficiency reliably provides employees with the proper tools.

Not only that, such a company is constantly trying to come up with ways to enhance employee engagement. Don’t forget that engaged employees are often the most efficient ones as well.

3. Don’t Forget About You: Managing Yourself to Be Better

A famous unsolved question in philosophy is the Barber’s Paradox. It asks, “If the barber only shaves those who don’t shave themselves, does the barber shave himself?”

At your business, the Barber’s Paradox is actually the Manager’s Paradox, because who actually manages the manager?

Treating employees as humans instead just assets starts in the heart of the manager or business owner. Sometimes, this manager has no manager of their own to critique their style of employee engagement and management, so it’s up to them to find their own resources.

Fortunately, there are many free resources that promote relationship-based leadership and employee-focused company cultures. Author of the bestseller “How To Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie is famous for guiding managers into developing relationship-centered approaches with their employees, which leads to better productivity, efficiency, and engagement.

When a manager or business owner learns to view and treat their employees as humans and not assets, those values trickle into all areas of their business.

Sometimes, the only manager you have is yourself. And that’s okay. You can be your own teacher too.

Conclusion: “To Win the Marketplace, You Must First Win the Workplace”

In whatever industry you have your company, Human Asset Management defines itself as the balanced treatment of your employees as both assets and humans. If you ever go too far one way, you can always get back. But you might hear George Bailey’s voice echoing,”Employees aren’t cattle. They’re people.”

——————————————————————————————————————–This piece was contributed by Morgan Cassady of ClocksharkFor construction and field service companies who want to get rid of paper time sheets, ClockShark is the GPS time tracking app that’s both powerful and easy to use.