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"People are our most valuable asset"

"People are our most valuable asset"

Posted on 3rd November 2014

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How many times, to the nearest hundred, have you heard someone, at your company say, “we really take care of our people, they are our most valuable asset”? It’s a stock in trade of the recruitment advertising copywriter too, giving the impression that the job being advertised is, in the proper sense of the word, unique, as is the recruiting company because it truly believes in the value of its ‘Human Resources’ (or people as you and I know them). This, as we all know, is not always matched by the reality the successful candidate finds on arrival at his or her new desk.

Anyone with some knowledge of economics knows the four factors of production: land, labour, capital and enterprise (or entrepreneurship). The last named organises the first three to create a viable/profitable business. Clearly, without people, none of the others can be organised into an effective business. This gave rise to the idea of ‘human capital’, the collected stock of knowledge, creativity, social and psychological traits and individual personalities that make up the key resource of any company, organisation or even country.  It’s the inter-relationships between these ‘human resources’ that makes a business tick, or, alternatively, suck. In other words, people really should be the most valuable asset, and paid accordingly. 

Assuming you agree with this (and I don’t know any HR or recruitment person who would not), why then do so many scrimp on the cost of recruiting these immensely valuable assets?

I know it’s a perennial cry from the recruitment industry, and that we are obviously accused of having a vested interest, but it is so fundamental that I would encourage every business in the country to look at the (huge) investment they make in their staff and ask if they truly believe they get their recruitment right.  Pay peanuts and get monkeys is an old saw, but it’s equally true that if you pay peanuts to your recruiter then don’t be surprised if all they offer is similarly simian.

Part of the problem is that recruitment is often a distress purchase, frequently made in response to someone leaving.  To maintain production or service, an immediate replacement is sought. There is no time to waste.  Yet one of the oldest adages in business/life is “fail to prepare and prepare to fail.” 

As a result, recruitment is done too quickly and on the cheap, with the consequences we see almost daily when the mismatch of skills that should have been identified before the job was offered results in the need for another ‘distress purchase’ a few months later.  Not infrequently, the new hire is recruited without thought of where their career and the company’s future are going. What starts at a round peg in round hole may, in time, become square and not fit the changing shape of the organisation.

This is where the professional recruiter can really earn his or her corn. Take the time to prepare a proper brief, involve a professional recruitment firm and marketing specialist and see the difference it makes.  Yes, it costs money, but it’s a lot less than the cost of getting it wrong. 

Andrew Finlayson, Associate Director, Be-IT Resourcing

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