Your People are your Highest ROI

We assign portions of our company’s budget to invest in all sorts of things – such as new equipment, a better location, more people, or new technology. Investing in your people is, by far, the greatest Return on Investment we can make.

The Strategy
Investing in your people yields higher returns because people have the ability to grow and change in a perpetual way. If you invest in someone learning a new programming language, and they build an app that attracts a whole new market, that is worth the investment. Their ability to improve themselves, continue to refine the tool and create more like it is invaluable and something that an investment in a non-human wouldn’t have demonstrated.

gravityBig news this week as the CEO of Gravity Payments in Seattle increased the company’s minimum wage to $70,000 and reduced his own salary to the same. This is a true demonstration of investing in your people. When your team members can’t afford the basic necessities to live, they are not focused on getting things done for the business, they are focused on trying to figure out how to pay their bills by taking on more work or just simply being distracted and not focused on the work at hand.

The Result
Not everyone can do this and not everyone should do this. It is just one example of investing in your people. For a moment though, can you imagine what the returns will be on this? Certainly the publicity of the organization due to news coverage, that’s free marketing bound to create some impressive numbers. Then there’s the loyalty it would bring from the current employees – although hard to measure, a positive impact. What about the attraction of countless new candidates? Now they will have their choice of candidates – no doubt.

Some might argue that because it is hard to identify quantitative return on investment into your people and easier to do so with equipment, it is not a wise investment. Although sometimes hard to measure, the results are always positive when investing in people.

The Opposition
Another argument I’ve heard against investing in your people is that they can take the knowledge you give them and leave to make another company successful. Investing in your people must work hand in hand with a great culture that retains its people. If you have a revolving door, investing in your people may slow the tide but unless you fix the reason so many people are leaving, you will not stop the door from swinging.


One of the well connected and vital businesses in our Edmonton community really understands and acts upon the importance of investing in their people. I spoke with Ellen Hollinger of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) who has the best view on this out of many I’ve talked to.

They believe in the ecosystem of the Edmonton market. EEDC has developed a culture of attracting young, bright, talented people who contribute their energy and skills to the organization. In turn, EEDC invests in their people by way of top tier leadership training and business acumen. Ellen says “I have no doubt that we’re creating quality leaders who will do amazing things after they leave us. We’re okay with that.”

EEDC goes into this fully understanding that people will only stay with an organization for a period of time. EEDC is a launching pad.  They expect people to leave their company better equipped for success and a great future. This perspective allows them to celebrate their employees’ career advancements.  And by doing so, they create loyalty and further connections in the marketplace.

By investing in their people and creating goodwill, those young leaders use their skills learned at EEDC to make bigger and better things happen throughout their career and for the benefit of Edmonton and the companies they serve. While growing in their careers, they also benefit EEDC by staying connected and sharing fresh information on what’s going on in the Edmonton market. In 10-20 years, they are mature, seasoned and sought-after leaders.

This is where the magic happens.

What Do You Think?
Now, when EEDC is looking for mentors, seasoned leaders and advocates, the return on investment is realized through the very people they helped years previous.

What if we all did this?

What kind of economy would we have in Alberta?

Investing in your people not only creates real ROI through the immediate benefit they bring to the team and better returns when compared to other investments, but also to the overall economy of your market and future unforeseen benefits through growing your ecosystem.

What creative things have you done to invest in your people?

For 20+ years Colin Christensen has been pondering and applying what makes a winning team win throughout his career as a hiring manager, recruiter and entrepreneur. Now, after building teams in all sizes and types of organizations and taking a team to the Profit 100 Fastest Growing Companies, he has launched Think Hire, a business devoted to building healthy organizations through strategic people systems.

Article written by Colin Christensen with Think Hire

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