Are your processes people dependent?
Our people are our greatest assets. This statement sounds correct and is used very often in today’s business reminding us that the company by itself is the people who work in it. However, it sounds incomplete to me so I will add that our people are our greatest liability as well. As each balance sheet asset has its counterpart as liability people that work for us can be looked in the same way.
When I hired Joe five years ago I knew that he is the person for the job. He had the experience, qualifications, sense of humor and most importantly I liked him. Now, after a few years he is ready for a promotion as a manager and I am trying to understand is he really my greatest asset and should I fight for him to keep him as an employee.
First, I will try to understand what value he has brought to the company and how does he justify to be called an asset. He comes regularly to work, does his job in a timely manner and is always polite to the team. Whenever, he is going to be overdue a deadline he is prompt in informing his manager so that adjusting actions can be taken. He doesn’t usually work during weekends and holidays and always take all vacations throughout the year. Some might say that he is a perfect employee and it is hard to disagree with that.
Now for the sake of argument let’s see what liability he is to the company. Joe has organized his work and structured his processes so that they can be performed within a reasonable time frame. He didn’t document his processes so it will be hard to find him a replacement. What is more, it will be impossible to assess his effectiveness and efficiency without spending time with him trying to understand what is he doing throughout his usual workday. Joe has requested to have three monitors so that he can use the three database systems at once when doing his job. Joe is not improving or changing his processes and even if he does, nobody knows because of lack of documentation.
When looking at Joe from both perspectives I conclude the following. He is the perfect employee for a company where you should stay away from the action put the time to stay in the same position for a while and wait until your managers think you are experienced enough to be promoted. However, what company is this? Is it the ordinary usual American corporation? It doesn’t matter. It is not a company that can call its people the greatest asset.