Employees are the most important asset of a company? Maybe not.

We hear it all the time. It makes a nice sound bite. Leaders say, “The most important asset of our company is our employees. Yet, judging by the limited amount of time, money, and effort most companies invest in selecting, training, and coaching their people, I would guess that people were about #97 on the most important asset list. Leaders say it and HR types gripe that leaders don’t really mean it, but what if it is not true at all? What if people aren’t the most important asset?

I’ve been kicking around an idea and would love to hear other’s thoughts on this. What if the most important asset of a business isn’t its people, but its customers? It’s an interesting idea to consider. I suspect that if companies embraced that idea then they would actually end up focusing more attention on the employees. If customers are the most valuable asset, then we want to hold on to them, invest in them, and grow them. How do we do that? By developing systems and processes around the customer. By making them feels special, important, and welcome. By putting the customer first. And how do we do that? By carefully and deliberately finding, hiring, developing, and retaining the best people to deliver that experience.

Is more than just semantics? It seems that when we put great processes in place solely for the sake of the employee then it’s often just a half-hearted effort; vague altruism sucks money away from profits so employee programs don’t get the attention they deserve. However, when we hire, develop, etc.great people for the sake of the customer (and the customer’s dollar) then HR becomes strategic because it is directly correlated with profit. What do you think? Is this just wordplay or is there something to this idea?

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