Investing in Talent: Commodity vs. Annuity

Author: Dr. Pete Hammett, Visiting Professor

Investing in Talent: Commodity vs. AnnuityOver the course of my career, I have had the great honor and privilege of working with professionals from a multitude of industries and levels across the country. On many occasions when working with groups of high-level professionals, I have taken the opportunity to ask them, “What is the greatest asset to your organization?” An overwhelming majority of them said exactly what you would be likely to say, too: their people.

It’s true – people are the number one asset to any organization. They’re invaluable —  the pen to your paper, the numbers to your financial statements, the sunlight to your seed…you get the point. Without people, an organization is nothing. However, in those same instances I asked organizations about their greatest asset, I followed up their answer of “people” by asking exactly how they convey this claim. The typical response is a tense forehead and maybe a list of benefits their people receive.

While those benefits may be nice, what many organizations fail to realize is that they are treating their greatest asset – their people – like a commodity when they should be treating them like an annuity. If I were to walk into your organization and ask your team if they felt they were treated as an invaluable asset to your organization, what would their response be? An unfortunate majority would likely say no.

As humans, we acquire and consume commodities. Once they’ve been consumed, they either disappear or they’re tossed. In other words, they’re disposable. This is exactly what many organizations are doing with their talent. They recruit them, use them for what they’re worth and move on to the next in line with little benefit seen by either side of the equation.

On the flip side, think of an annuity. We invest in it, care for it and manage its growth year over year in expectation of a return value. Shouldn’t we be doing the same with our people? When we obtain talent, investing in their growth should become a top priority. By continuously encouraging development in those on our team, we prepare them for future positions and success. In return, we often see increased loyalty, efficiency and a high return on investment. When new skills and abilities are gained by our people, our organizations see doors to new opportunities open before them.

So, if you say your greatest asset is your people, what are you doing to prove it to them? If you aren’t sure if you live what you’re speaking, take a hard look at your systems. Are your people the core focus, or simply a disposable piece of the pie? Are you treating your team as a commodity, or as an annuity?

Beyond the Blog

Learn more from Dr. Pete Hammett at the Managing Talent to Win professional development program on April 21-23, 2020. Participants will have the opportunity to create individualized plans to improve talent management, learn to identify and prepare the right people for critical positions and develop plans for leveraging strategic employee talent. Register here!

Participants are encouraged to attend as a team! For questions, more information or team discount rates, contact Betty Jones-Bliss at 217-549-2883 or bettyso@purdue.edu.

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