Did you ever doubt it?
If you ever needed proof that people are your greatest asset you certainly got it last week. The resignation of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple wiped $10bn off the company's value.
Amazing! A company at the forefront of technology and it loses nearly 5% of its value on the resignation of one man! Certainly one for the humanists!
It does, however, beg some questions. (Not least about the iconoclasm of the market and its role the arbiter of value. After all, the news was hardly a massive surprise. So the reaction does seem to have been rather a knee-jerk response, even if reports claim that the fall was less than expected! However, let's not go down that road.)
Firstly; if one man can have such a massive impact on the company's value, should that value not be tangibly recognised? Clearly the man is a massive asset to the company. So is it right not to include that value on the balance sheet?
Secondly: how can one man make such an enormous difference to a company? After all, no matter how visionary Jobs might be, there is no way he could have made Apple the success it is on his own. The products, the design, the marketing were never the result of just his effort.
This is borne out by the fact that Apple has 27,184 employees on Linked-In alone. And I am sure, no matter how much they revere the man, they will all claim a part in the company's success. And they would be justified, because business is ultimately a team effort. And as BP so dramatically illustrated: some lower level employee not doing his job properly can be disastrous. Each and every person contributes to success and thus they also have a value which should be recognised.
Thirdly: No man is immortal. And every leader knows this. Consequently any leader worth his salt will ensure that he imparts his vision, his values and his principles to those around him. To the extent that those govern his behaviour and his success, they will inspire others. So they will endure after him. Furthermore someone like Jobs who has been suffering from ill-health for some time will take even greater care to ensure that there is someone to whom he can pass the baton. Consequently, even if that person cannot replicate his unique qualities, the marginal difference will not be as great as that indicated by the market.
However, for me the clincher is the fact that, by not looking at the value of people, you are missing the opportunity to find other Jobs. How many people are there in the workforce whose potential lies untapped because no-one has given them the chance to demonstrate their abilities. At least with a leader like Jobs those qualities are more likely to be developed and come to the fore. As a result I would venture to think that Apple is better placed than most companies.
Just think how you could flush out latent qualities and enhance employee engagement if you were to value your people. What a difference it could make to your company if you were to do so. Surely you should if they are the assets you say they are!