Are Your Employees Really Your Most Valuable Asset?

Clear Cut: The Right Way to Think About Your Employees as An Asset

3 September 2016
Image source: Pixabay

Image source: Pixabay

I smoothed my hands over the embellished cover. It had a beautiful finish, coupled with a new-book feel that promised rich content inside.

I slowly turned the pages of the expensively bound book, letting the anticipation build.

It didn’t disappoint.

PAGES 2-5. My eyes popped at the glossy photographs that barely did justice to the outrageous gorgeousness of the building and the sumptuous surroundings.

Hmm! Clearly Sales and Marketing’s budget being flexed here.

PAGES 6- 11. The impeccable luxury pedigree of the property was laid out in all its glory. The pages were dripping with accolades and industry awards praising the handcrafted amenities, the near-telepathic service and individually tailored guest experience offering.

PAGES 12 – 17. The hotel’s Purpose, Philosophy and Principles were a solemn pledge to creating a peerless luxury brand experience.

PAGE 18. Our People. There it was; writ large and in bold in this exquisite employee handbook.

It stopped me dead in my tracks – robbing me of my appetite to read on.

“Our Employees Are Our Most Valuable Asset”

Class or crass?

Is it just me?

Feeling a deep disappointment and serious vexation at seeing this cliché after reading a 17 page homage to handcrafted luxury and individually tailored guest experiences?

I’ll not pull punches here. Doesn’t it scream after-thought?

What does this tell us about how the company values its employees?

That it sees its employees as a valuable asset, like cold, hard cash?

Does it raise suspicions that their employees are a resource with the human stripped out of it? With that, it can be readily exploited on the whim of the company to deliver the peerless luxury brand experience, near-telepathic service and individually tailored guest experience offering.

Maybe I am mistaken.

It may simply be an issue of semantics. Using the word ‘asset’ is a well-intentioned acknowledgement of the incredible value each employee possess.

The best place to start is to talk about the problem and see it through the lens of opportunity.

Let’s see where it takes us…

We need to go back to the concept development and design stage. When designing a hotel – typically the main focus is guest-centric; specifically how the building will look and feel to guests (the wow-factor), how it can be marketed/branded as a product and experience.  In the case of building a luxury hotel the focus on the guest-centric experience is heightened.

From the employee perspective, the design and build focus are on how to create the “back of house” (very Downton Abbey) to deliver the service to the guests as efficiently as possible.

Rarely is there serious thought and a plan how to contribute to enhancing the employer brand by creating a great employee experience which in turn boosts the product brand and guest experience.

This functional and efficiency thinking in the development stage often spills over into the post-opening daily hotel operations.  This thinking then sneaks (often more by default than design) into the materials, policies, rules and communication which originate from the HR department.

Whilst a challenge now, this presents a glorious opportunity to get employee experience thinking alongside the guest experience crafting.

After all which ‘asset’ will deliver the hotel’s peerless luxury brand experience, near-telepathic service and individually tailored guest experience offering?

The gorgeous building? The sumptuous surroundings?

OR the employees?

This is a case for a holistic human-centric design (guest AND employee focus). It is not only the right thing to do; but it makes business sense.

Is it OK to think of your employees as a luxury asset?

Now this is a serious question. Answer: It could be tricky.

Defining luxury is notoriously subjective and therefore susceptible to personal biases.

Take a 12 seconds and reflect on these 2 points.

  • What does luxury mean to you?
  • What pops immediately in your mind?

But perhaps there is salvation and opportunity in looking a deeper definition of luxury.

Think beyond objects of desire, scarce and reserved for the few elite members of a community.

Expand your idea of luxury as a symbol of wealth and power.

Consider luxury in terms of time, experience and craftsmanship.

“Creating Luxury

Luxury production represents an investment in time. This applies not only to the time spent making an object but also to the process of perfecting skills. Makers of luxury are inspired by passion and curiosity …” What is Luxury? An Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 25 April – 27 September 2015

“A Space for Time

Luxury has the potential to unlock dreams of being somewhere else or someone else. It exists at the boundaries of daily routines and systems but relies on notions of breaking out.

The acquisition of luxury objects has always fulfilled aspirations. In a busy and intrusive world, people increasingly value time and space for enjoying special moments and extraordinary experiences. What is Luxury? An Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 25 April – 27 September 2015.

Maybe I am going way out on a limb with this; but let’s press on.

Take this idea of luxury to the edge, blend and add the common idea of employees as an asset with intrinsic value.  What do we get?

In this luxury hotel context, I propose a new definition for employees.

Makers of luxury. Craftsmen and women who are precise, skilled and committed to creating value through extraordinary experiences and memorable moments for the guests.

After all, could you call an experience ‘luxury’ if it were easy to create?

The maintenance technician. The housekeeping attendant. The front desk assistant. Bellhop. The restaurant server. The chefs and the kitchen assistants.

“You may not know their names but now you can appreciate the sacrifice. Their time for your luxury.”

Should You Value Your Employees Like Luxury Brand Creators?

What do you think?

If you do, what changes will that mean for your recruitment process; your recognition and reward programmes?

Let’s talk about it in the comments.

So until we meet again next week down The HR Rabbit Hole…



This post is inspired by:-

  • A brainpoke that resulted after recently reading 18 pages of a newly designed employee handbook.
  • An interesting conversation with Andy Swann, Change Maker at BDG Architecture + Design.
  • A visit, last year, to the ‘What is Luxury? Exhibition’ at the V&A Museum in London.

Of course, you are very welcome to share, use, and draw inspiration from any material posted. When doing so please let us continue to attribute, credit and honour the originators, creators or sources of the material as a mark of respect to their craft.

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4 thoughts on “Are Your Employees Really Your Most Valuable Asset?

  1. Julian Summerhayes

    I’m an ex-lawyer and could argue the hind legs of several donkeys when it comes to the meaning of ‘asset’. But let’s cut to the chase. No staff: no business. Even robots need someone to programme them — no I’m talking about leaders conditioning their staff!

    The key thing: allow everyone to show up as their true Self. Not the ego-busting, get-out-of-my-way nomenclature but the people who are allowed to marry soul with role. Do that and I don’t care what you call people. (Actually I do. Human beings might be a start.)
    Julian Summerhayes recently posted…Walking our own pathMy Profile

    1. nicoleg Post author

      I appreciate your straight talk – from an ex-lawyer too 😉 No staff: no business – no argument there. Employee experience is reflected in and directly influences customer experience.
      There is lots chatter about the value of allowing employees to bring their true selves to work. Sadly many HR and business leaders want the benefits of this ‘value’ but are reluctant to give up command and control power. Leading and working successfully with Free-range humans demands an uncomfortable (for some) shift in power and thinking to gain the rewards for individuals and the business. Here’s to “marrying souls with roles” and genuinely putting the ‘human’ before the ‘resources’. Not only does it make business sense – it’s the right thing to do. Thanks for stopping by Julian and continuing the conversation.

  2. Kristy Morris

    Great article, Nicole! I truly agree that sometimes we devote so much effort into making a product or experience “luxurious” by investing in high quality physical elements. However, we must also pay special attention to the actual service being delivered by employees, as this can either make or break the entire experience altogether.

    1. nicoleg Post author

      You are so right we need to do a better job of balancing – the investment of $ and energy into the physical product and guest/customer experience with investing $ and time into the work areas and employee experience. After all the quality and authenticity of the employee experience powers and influences the guest/customer experience – particularly in the hospitality industry. Thanks for stopping by.


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