The Priceless Value of Fully Valued Employees

Human beings are not commodities. There is no price tag for a human life. Truly value your employees by taking these seven actions and you will receive a return on investment that will not just increase the worth of your company, more importantly you will increase your own self-worth.

by Ian Berry

All organizations exist for fundamentally the same reason: to deliver the value to all their stakeholders that they demand, desire, and feel they deserve; what I call, must-haves, should-haves, and nice-to-haves. Organizations thriving in the modern world are delivering all three. Delivery of such value presents a challenge for most organizations because employees, the primary deliverers of value to other stakeholders, feel undervalued. The consequence is that employees do not deliver the value to others that they can and must. There are seven simple, yet profound actions, we must take to ensure our employees feel valued and therefore perform at optimum levels on a consistent basis.

Photos by David Hilliard. Courtesy of La Galerie Particulière.

Know precisely what your stakeholders actually want
When was the last time you asked all your stakeholders what they actually want from you? If it’s been more than six months since you asked your stakeholders what they want from you in terms of the must-haves, should-haves, and nice-to-haves, that would mean they will continue to exchange value with you (you provide what they want and they provide you with something in exchange), then it is likely that you are leaving thousands of dollars of profits on the table. If you are not engaged in continual and conscious conversations with your employees about the value they want from you, then it is likely that they are not as fully engaged as they could be and therefore not delivering required value to others.

Turn values on the wall into virtues in the hall
Unless the values we articulate on our walls and in our annual reports are verbs, that is they are behaviors that demonstrate we mean what we say, then they are actually demotivators for people. Values must be virtues or they are just meaningless words.

See people as they could be, rather than as they are
My first mentor had a great philosophy, which I later discovered was popularized by Goethe, the great German philosopher:

When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be. (Goethe)

Stop seeing your employees as they are. Start seeing people as they could be. Create a culture that encourages people to visualize possibility and that enables them to turn possibility into reality.

Let the imagination genie out of the bottle

Photos by David Hilliard. Courtesy of La Galerie Particulière.

Sir Ken Robinson, a must see and hear speaker, is one of the world’s leading educators. In many of his speeches he says we don’t just have a natural resources crisis, we also have a human resources crisis. He also says imagination is the most distinctive feature of human nature. One of the reasons we do indeed have a human resources crisis, is that our workplaces are often not the kind of places where imagination is allowed to thrive. We seem to have a focus on knowledge and have ignored Einstein’s famous edict: Imagination is more important than knowledge. When imagination is allowed to flourish, inspiration follows, as does insight and then ideas. An idea successfully implemented is innovation, particularly if the implementation changes what’s normal. If you aren’t really innovating in your organization, and you must if you want to thrive, it is likely that imagination is not being allowed to flourish. How we solve problems and meet our challenges is a great way to ensure that people’s imagination is alive and well. A typical scenario is this: We recognize a problem, and solve it. What has happened 9 times out of 10 is that all we have done is reinstated the status quo and haven’t really removed the cause of the problem in the first place! Every problem and challenge we have is a gift. It is an opportunity for innovation, to change what’s normal.
Please look at all your problems and challenges with new eyes. See them as opportunities to let your let your imagination loose. Encourage everyone around you to do the same. You will have opened the door to inspiration, insight and ideas, the essentials that precede authentic innovation.

Involve your employees in setting strategy

Why is it that most strategies fail to get executed? My answer is that it’s because our employees, the primary executors of our strategy, have not yet bought into or do not yet own our strategy. I define strategy as: the reference points from which we make all the key decisions about exchanging value. In my conference and in-house meeting presentations I ask people in small groups to create no more than six words to describe their strategy. I have been delighted, moved, and inspired by the profound ‘six word strategies’ that people create. When I visit organizations prior to being engaged for a project I walk the factory floors or office halls and chat with people about what needs to change and how they believe the changes can be made. It never cease to amaze me that people know what to do, they have just never been asked. How would you go about asking your employees for their input? In what ways can you involve them in the setting of your strategy?

Ensure all employees have their own execution plan
Following on from engaging your employees in the setting of your strategy, ensure that a conversation is held with every employee that accomplishes the documentation of what is worth celebrating about their performance and what they believe needs to be better. Then help each individual to create a personal and business performance possibility plan that overviews their personal and business goals and how they will be achieved for the next 90 days. Help people to do this in ways that will mean they keep doing what is worth celebrating, as well as make improvements in the areas they have indicated. Use the document created as a management tool to have the following conversations with people on a regular basis.

Photos by David Hilliard. Courtesy of La Galerie Particulière.

Engage frequently in appreciation and accountability conversations
What do human beings value the most? My answer would be, to be loved, valued, and fulfilled. Appreciating people and being appreciated ourselves is a key. The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated, said William James.
I designed what I call “The Double A Technique” to help people appreciate other people and to teach others to be accountable. The technique invokes a central philosophy I hold that we are better off to ask questions of other people than to give them our answers.

On a regular basis meet with people informally.

First of all:  be quiet and pay attention.

Ask: How are things going?

When you get a positive response

Ask: How does that make you feel?

Then say: Great, Brilliant or whatever is appropriate.

Then ask: Any other areas I can help you with?

First of all:  be quiet and pay attention.

Ask: How are things going?

When you get a negative response

Ask: What happened?

Then ask: What do you need to do to get back on track?

Then ask: Is there anything I can do to help you?

Finally ask: Anything else?


Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Winter 2011