Not all people are valuable assets, but the vast majority could be if only they were managed properly. The problem is very, very few managers or HR people know how to do that.
Many companies, even those with HR departments, do a very poor job of managing their employees, a poor job of unleashing the full potential of employees. A considerable store of creativity, innovation and productivity exists in every person and the management challenge is to unleash that store and apply it to the goals of the organization.
So what model of management should be used to maximize the use of that potential? Is it the top-down command and control model so pervasive in business or is it some other model? I spent about 12 years using the top-down model and was frustrated that about half of my people were not performing anywhere near as well as I wished. My best people, the self-directed self-starters, were performing far above the average and I wondered why the others could not close the gap.
Then I read a book on organizational management which informed me of how important the workforce was, actually more important to achieving goals than I. I had to admit that I was so busy giving orders and figuring out what my next order would be that I had not ever really listened to these VIPs. So I started listening and found that they had many complaints, suggestions and questions, all of which I attempted to resolve to their satisfaction. In some cases, what they wanted was not what they needed and I took time to explain why, but most of the time they were at least partially on target.
Then an amazing thing happened. As I went about resolving their concerns, their performance improved almost in lock step. In fact, after some months I realized that as a group my people were about twice as capable as I had thought possible. I won't go into why this happened, but it is all about leadership.
A few years later, I developed some tools that would convert the vast majority to being self-directed self-starters just like my very best people. Once again, I was amazed to find out that my people were about twice as capable as I had thought possible or four times as capable as I had originally thought possible when using the top-down approach.
Management's problem is the top-down approach because by its very nature it demeans and disrespects its employees and thereby "leads" them to demean and disrespect their work, their customers, each other and their bosses. In using the top-down model, managers and executives are their own worst enemies. Authority is not the problem, but misuse of that authority is a huge problem.