People and KnowledgePeople — otherwise known as talent and human beings – are truly an organization’s greatest asset in today’s world. So why are people so often treated like potatoes that can be shifted around from one job to another?

Organizations pay a lot of money and time to recruit the best and the brightest and entice them with their vision, culture and being the best company out there. Have you ever thought that looking for a job is a lot like dating? Everyone is showing their best sides and trying to prove that they are “the one.”

While the term dating has many meanings, the most common refers to a trial period in which two people explore whether to take the relationship further towards a more permanent relationship; in this sense, dating refers to the time when people are physically together in public as opposed to the earlier time period in which people are arranging the date. And recruitment refers to the process of attracting, screening, selecting, and onboarding a qualified person for a job. At the strategic level it may involve the development of an employer brand which includes an ‘employee offering’.

According to Eric Koester of MyHighTechStart-Up, “estimates range from 1.5x to 3x of salary for the ‘fully-baked’ cost of an employee.” Remember the fully baked reference here as it is definitely part of the “people potato strategy” that many organizations employ once the courtship is over and you are an employee.

As both a consultant and an employee, I have worked a great deal on projects involving strategy, employee engagement and organizational design. One of the principles I always introduced is to stick with the lifecycle of the employee at the organization; not just the courtship phase. There is a whole lifecycle that goes beyond recruitment and retention. My definition of communication is “does every employee know what they need to do to be effective in their job?”  My work, as a strategist, has always gone beyond defining the strategy as that is the easy part. Implementing strategy through your people is where the rubber hits the road. It’s about how you strategically tap into your people, customers and partners.  It’s about two-way communication, an ability to be agile and have people understand their role in implementing your strategy.

In our world of abundance, organizations need to shift from taking away marketshare from their competitors to creating new markets and learning how to integrate social technologies into their process as a way to create effective two-way communication. We don’t need  a social media or social business strategy but a solid business strategy that thinks through all the pieces of execution — as this is where hiring the best and the brightest and putting them to work distinguishes the winners from the losers.

And the only way to do it is to know how every one of your employees fits into making the vision and the strategy a reality. And no communication plan or PowerPoint can merely achieve it for you. It’s about an ongoing process of listening and executing. Organizations that do not see their workforce as disposable and know how to invest in tapping into the minds and hearts of their people are the ones who will win.

One of the main reasons is that when the fear in the workplace will wear off and people will not allow their employers to treat them like a sack of potatoes that can be mashed, fried or baked, they will either look for a greener grass elsewhere or put up their own shingle or contact their valuable time. It’s already happening so having a strategy that goes beyond introducing meditation rooms and mindfulness will need to take place (did you know that 25% of organizations in the US today have set up meditation spaces?) Otherwise, organizations will continue to bleed:

The cost of employee turnover for businesses is high, regardless of the level of wages being paid to the departing or incoming employees. Companies typically pay about one-fifth of an employee’s salary to replace that employee. While it costs businesses more to replace their very-highest-paid employees, the costs for most employers remains significant and does become less significant for those with low earnings.

What we need is authentic leadership that practices compassion. That’s what struck me when I saw LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner speak at the Wisdom 2.0 conference. He talked a lot about compassion in the workplace and his role in coaching his people rather than telling them how they need to solve their problems and his belief that: “Our purpose at LinkedIn is to create economic opportunity for people. If we do it right, then revenue growth will naturally happen” You could tell that almost everyone in the audience resonated with his insights and wished for more leaders with this much common sense. I loved his talk and heard from a friend who knows him that he practices what he preaches so there is hope!

Some steps to take to have a solid strategy for your people:

  •  Truly listen: Gone are the days when employees surveys are good indicators of employee engagement. If you are a leader or manager, go back to basics of having conversations. Ask tough questions. You don’t have to respond on the spot. When you don’t have the answer just say so and tell the person that you will get back to them. Next time you have a meeting, skip the PowerPoint and have a conversation. Even better, look at the “deck” ahead of time so you can really dig deep into the business opportunities and solutions with whoever you are meeting. None of us likes to be talked at.
  • Define what being authentic means to you: You can bring who you are to work and still be professional. If we hire the best and the brightest, let’s treat everyone as though they can differentiate between bullshit and authenticity. More compassion at work never hurt anyone. None of us want to be treated like we are a sack of potatoes that can be dragged from one end of the organization to the other. Think about compassion. What does it really mean and how does it come to play?
  • Create strategies that include a solid communication plan in terms of how it is integrated into the work process. It would be wonderful if the plan could execute itself but it takes people to realize your vision. And people want to feel like assets; they want to be valued and do good work. How does it make you feel to be valued?
  • Integrate social technologies that make sense for your business and organization. Don’t layer more tools on your teams and expect them to go to yet another place. Instead integrate it into work processes and measure impact instead of activity. And just so you know, it works. I just had a client engagement where we introduced business metrics instead of activity.

Bottom line is that people are important. We just need care and feeding and to be treated like grown ups. What are some other ways we can get rid of the people potato strategy in the workplace?