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“Train people well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough so they don’t want to” – Richard Branson.

A great quote and I wish organisations would always behave like this. Unfortunately, most organisations seem to do the exact opposite:

  • First of all, they do not train people enough – if they train people at all, and
  • Secondly, they almost certainly do not treat people well enough.

The result of this is shown in the poor results for employee engagement scores. Isn’t it frustrating?

So why is it that almost all organizations always say that “people are their greatest asset and people development is extremely important”, but in reality, what they do, is see people are pure cost and try to avoid putting any money into training or development?

If things are not going well enough, the first measure most organisations take is to reduce the number of people so costs go down. Read the daily news and you will see that every day so many jobs are lost and people are being made redundant. And people working in any organisation must surely sense and feel how the organisation is really looking at people; costs or assets. In my view, this is a fundamental issue.

Organisations that do see people as assets are talking and thinking about the value people can bring. They invest in people to try to constantly increase that value. Their first reaction in case a job or role becomes redundant is not to sack the person, but to look for alternative roles and positions which will add more value to the organisation. In those organisations, people can grow, and are willing to give up or automate work of low value to move into roles where they can develop and add more value.

In organisations which see people as cost, the opposite is true. People just keep doing what they do and hold on to this as long as possible. As they do not develop over time, the added value of the person and the role becomes less and less until the unavoidable reorganisation changes it all, and roles become redundant and people are told to leave the organization.

The question is in which of the two types of organisation would you think people are truly engaged?

Perhaps we should change the incentive structure for top executives; instead of getting a nice bonus for a good financial result achieved by reducing jobs, they should only get a bonus for a good financial result by retaining a workforce through creating more jobs! This could stimulate a culture of treating people really like assets instead of cost.


Our Employee Engagement Summit 2016 will enable and provide insight into making your organisation irresistible to work for and hard to leave.






Lisa graduated with an Honours Degree in Occupational Safety and Health from Aston University in 1983 and has been actively involved in Health and Safety across a broad range of areas ever since.

Lisa is a consultant and past president of IOSH, and has particular interests in audits, stress management, behavioural safety and training.

Within the University she has designed, developed and implemented a standard university health & safety management system audit program, introduced a refreshed approach to stress management supported by a ‘Be Your Best’ programme of activities and events and delivered a wide range of Health & Safety training courses.

Her professional interests away from the University include being a current Member of the Risk Management and Audit Committee and a past President of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)

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