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People Are Our Most Important Asset!

A business should value and manage people assets no differently than they value and manage physical assets.
A business should value and manage people assets no differently than they value and manage physical assets.

What is an asset? Typically, when you think of assets they are physical things like cranes or machine tools or perhaps information or software. What about people though? From my experience people are the most important assets for any organisation and without them, they would never realise the true value from their other assets. Over my years working in asset management I have developed an approach to managing people as assets and I would like to give a snapshot of that approach in this article. Why? To help other people working in asset management who may want to use some of the thinking I have to develop and to start developing a discussion in this important but often overlooked part of asset management.

The People Asset Lifecycle

The line of sight for people as assets is similar to the alignment of physical assets with the business purpose and objectives, see Figure 1. The first step is for the leadership team to establish an outline organisational design of how they feel the business objectives can best be achieved. Adding detail to this, job descriptions and role profiles are written, again linking up to how that individual roles will help the business achieve its purpose.

Figure 1: People Assets Line of Sight
Figure 1: People Assets Line of Sight

Developing a capable organisation, competence and capacity of required resources are then assessed using the detail from the job descriptions to identify the capability requirements. Closing any gaps in capability, training and recruitment activities ensure any gaps can be closed. Finally, personal objectives are established in alignment with the business purpose and used to manage the human asset performance through perhaps some kind of appraisal process.

Capacity + Competence = Capability. As a people leader, I need the right number of people assets with the right levels of competence to be capable, see Figure 2.

Figure 2: Capacity + Competence = Capability
Figure 2: Capacity + Competence = Capability

Building on the line of sight for people assets, Figure 3 shows the three phases in the people as asset lifecycle starting from when the organisational design has been established: Obtain à Train à Retain the right people assets!

Figure 3: Three Phases of People as Assets Lifecycle
Figure 3: Three Phases of People as Assets Lifecycle

Obtain: focuses on using the job description as the requirements for the recruitment of people assets. This is in conjunction with assessing the capacity needs, do I have enough staff to achieve my team objectives?

There is also a clear link between the obtain and train phases. If you refer to the job description throughout the obtain recruitment process, at the end of it you will have an excellent idea of which candidates match the requirements and what potential development any suitable candidates may need. The outputs from the recruitment should feed directly into the people leader’s skills and competency tool to understand their new level of capability. In some cases the new people assets may be able to train existing people assets, bringing their external knowledge and experience to increase the competency and subsequent capability.

Train: focuses on closing any competence shortfalls with existing staff. I have enough staff (capacity) but they can’t do everything I need them to do to achieve my team objectives.

Retain: focuses on managing people once recruited keeping them motivated and developing career development and succession plans to ensure the people asset capability levels are maintained.

Bringing this altogether, Figure 4 shows the people assets equivalent of the bathtub curve. In this example the failure rate is replaced with non-value adding contribution of the people assets over time (perhaps their career).

Figure 4: People as Assets Bathtub Curve
Figure 4: People as Assets Bathtub Curve

As with the traditional bathtub curve, there are three stages

1)    Recruitment - non-value adding can be high if the recruitment phase is not managed correctly. Similarly to physical assets, if the transition from recruitment to expected value adding contribution (handover) is not managed properly then the true potential will not be immediately realised. Target is to minimise the non-value adding time in the recruitment and onboarding of new people assets. Helping to improve the link between recruitment and onboarding, Figure 5 shows how the system engineering ‘V’ diagram can be tailored to develop a people asset recruitment framework. At the core of the ‘V’ diagram is a team based approach to recruitment ensuring the new people assets and existing assets are compatible and there are no surprises to either.

Figure 5: 'V' Diagram for People Assets
Figure 5: 'V' Diagram for People Assets

2) Part of the team and adding value - the non-value adding time is at a minimum as the people as assets are ‘optimised’. Target is to maximise this stage ensuring the recruitment to onboarding is seamless and the people asset is kept motivated and have clear career development plans that suit them and the needs of the business.

3) Development needs not met - the non-value adding time starts to increase if the people assets are not kept motivated and/or their development needs are not fulfilled. Target is to minimise this stage ensuring the right people assets are in place to achieve the needs of the business.


This article has given a high-level overview of an approach for managing people as assets. The key point to take away is that a business should value and manage people assets no differently than they value and manage physical assets. This includes taking the time to correctly specify why you need the asset in the first place and how you correctly bring the asset into the organisation so that it adds value immediately. The assets must then be managed through their useful life to maximise the value and ensuring that they are motivated and have clear career development plans - obtain, train and retain the right people assets! Without clear communication throughout this approach, the true capability will not be achieved either, communicate with and throughout the people asset lifecycle.


Dr. Paul Martin Gibbons is passionate about doing 'things'​ better and finding & implementing better ways to do 'things'​ better too! Some of his past experiences include:

  • Joined the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority [NDA] in June 2020 as the Asset Management Lead.

  • Previously served as a Technical Director and Lead Consultant within the Jacobs Asset Management Advisory helping clients improve their asset management capability (5 years).

  • Prior to Jacobs, he was the Asset Management Principal at Gatwick Airport leading them to develop and implement a lean and systems thinking approach to asset management [certified PAS 55/ISO55000] (6 years).

  • Started his career in the manufacturing sector as a machinist working with many leading organisations as a direct employee or providing consultancy (over 25 years).

  • Currently serves as a Visiting Industrial Fellow at Bristol University and part of their Industry Advisory Board. Also deliver lectures on Asset Management at Bristol and Cranfield Universities (15 years).

  • Institute of Asset Management Fellow & Patron representative on behalf of the NDA. Also, a Fellow of the IET and a Fellow of the Institute of Six Sigma.

  • Holds an Engineering Doctorate in Systems Thinking with Research in Asset Management as well as an MSc in Maintenance Engineering and Asset Management + another MSc in Operations Management.


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