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The Hidden Gold

When someone examines the assets of an organization, usually it includes the tangible things like property, buildings, machinery, furnishings, inventory etc. Frequently, little or no attention is p[aid to the human assets that are really the hidden gold of the organization.

What talents, skills and abilities do the people of the organization have? What is their level of commitment to the mission of the organization? How well do they see their effort and work contributing to the outcomes that serve the people the organization addresses, or provide superior products and services that attract people to the organization’s marketplace?

Not only are the human assets often overlooked in determining a monetary value to the assets of an organization, they often take second place in consideration of the costs to value in the organization.

I frequently shop at the local outlet of a large international chain department store. Sometimes, while there, I will visit the snack bar, have a cup of coffee and watch the employees in their work. One particular person, I will call him “Sam,” has become a friend and I have frequently told him that I hope the organization appreciates him because of the way he interacts with customers and his clear dedication to his work.

Recently, on a visit to the store, I stopped to greet Sam and ask him how he was doing. He said: “They have cut my hours so I am looking for work elsewhere.” He was clearly unhappy about the situation. Ironically, there was a table nearby with a sign that read: “Now hiring: Fill out an Application.” I told Sam I did not want to interfere, but as a customer I was willing to talk to his supervisor or supply a reference to any new employer he was considering.

Having been involved with so many organizations over the years, I quickly realized what was happening here. Sam was one of the longer term employees in the organization and management, while they would not ask him to leave and really did not have any basis to do so because of his good performance, decided to make it harder for Sam to want to stay and therefore cut his hours. Clearly, a new hire would be making less money than Sam so management thinks they will save money if Sam leaves and is replaced by a new employee.

What shallow thinking! There is hidden gold in Sam. He has skills, motivation and commitment that will not be present in a new employee initially and maybe ever, for that matter. There are probably hidden abilities Sam has that the organization could use if they develop him further and can use him as a leader or trainer of others.

The long term success of an organization in meeting the need of customers demands a workforce that not only knows how to perform well but is also dedicated and committed to do so. The hidden gold in an organization’s human assets is something that cannot be overlooked in today’s world of the competitive marketplace.

While it may look good on paper that replacing Sam saves some immediate cost, the cost of recruiting and training a new member, the time to get that new member up to speed in performance and the question of whether a new employee will ever have Sam’s commitment may well end up costing the organization far more that continuing to pay Sam what he is worth. Watching Sam interact with customers and developing good will with them is clearly part of the hidden gold that Sam reflects.

The bottom line is this. What hidden gold is in each of the members of your organization? What part of that hidden gold can be even more refined to add value to the organization’s efforts? What responsibility do you as a leader in the organization have to help uncover and refine that gold? The effort to work on the support and development of the human assets, the hidden gold in the organization, will pay much more that replacing seasoned, good performing and dedicated members with new ones that may seem to cost the organization less.

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