People Are Your Best Assets? Prove It!

It's popular today to talk up people as a company's best assets.

It's true -- people are in fact the secrets that elevate good businesses to great ones.

But talk alone isn't going to get you far. To truly benefit from those great hires, you've got to invest actual energy in them.

You really believe people are your best assets? Here are seven ways to prove it:

Offer real flexibility: Flexibility is not just the ability to work at home. You can be plenty disengaged there, too. What's more important than offering any singular flex-feature is both knowing your people and providing a platform to support how they work best. For employees, the ability to work the way they're most productive and the unequivocal knowledge that they have the support to take time to deal with a personal crisis? That's flexibility that really delivers.

Make HR a company project: All HR initiatives are about people, but not all people initiatives are limited to HR. What does that mean? It means that the folks in the HR suite shouldn't be the only ones in the company who appear to be invested in people. Leadership needs to be on board as well, visibly communicating, and practicing what the company preaches.

If you don't have a formal review process, start one. Immediately: Incident-based critiques will only get you so far. Scheduled feedback tells people how they're doing today, and paints a clear picture of what they have to do to get where they want to go tomorrow. And a commitment to positive reinforcement goes a lot further than just telling people when they've done something wrong. Goals. Objectives. Rewards. They work.

Provide a meaningful career map: People feel invested in a company when they can clearly see their futures. Unfortunately, those possibilities are often clouded beneath convoluted ascension policies or the failure to provide a roadmap at all. Start with a solid framework but be prepared to make adjustments for valuable people and positions that don't perfectly fit the mold.

Make company culture a part of your team: What kind of rules do you expect your people to play by? Write them down. Then make those rules part of your team by living them. At Bright Horizons, our HEART principles are referenced by nearly everyone who works here as guideposts for how we do business with the outside world and each other. Equally crucial, it's clear that our leadership lives by the same rules, which speaks louder than any words.

Don't merely buy benefits -- invest: Too many business leaders look at HR purely as a necessary evil and they buy their benefits accordingly. But you know what that gets you? Not much. Not only does such a ho-hum approach stifle creativity, it almost assuredly leads you to purely status quo benefits like healthcare. And let's face it, those aren't the kinds of things that are going to get you far in impacting areas like productivity or recruitment -- these days, healthcare is the price of entry. Instead, smart companies look at people solutions for their potential for returns -- huge returns. Figure out what would energize your people, and invest accordingly.

Encourage people to speak up...and listen to them: The handbook, written 25 years ago, may say one thing. But if your engaged and productive workforce asks to veer from the designated path, don't just wave the handbook as the de facto reason for a "no." Show that you're willing to listen...and mean it. Not only will you allow your company to keep up with the times, but you'll end up with people who are more of a community, less a chain of cubicle islands.

Most important, think of your people as humans, not just employees. Companies that do end up with people who feel valued, and who translate that feeling into consistent and predictable on-mission performance. And that's a whole lot more than you'll get with a few weak words.