02/13/2013 03:54 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2013

Leadership Challenges for 2013: Are People Your Most Important Asset?

The economy is hardening up. Optimism is starting to trend. Home prices are increasing. For years, we have claimed that people are our most important assets. We certainly didn't experience that through the great recession, though, did we?

As we hopefully continue our recovery in 2013, where will leadership focus? Will we rebuild the trust we lost with employees when the recession started and jobs were eliminated at a record pace? How will we now deal with these skeptical people on a day-to-day basis and simultaneously plan for their success and ignite change amongst them? Is practicing what we preach enough? Or does the real magic happen through our interaction with them?

Here are six leadership challenges for 2013 for those looking to truly realize the value of people in the workplace today:

1. Retention
Are you vulnerable for losing talent and intellectual capital -- your most important assets? "They" are out there coming to get your best and brightest. Better watch out. Do you have a solid retention strategy that is more than just money?

2. Total reward and motivation strategy
Is equity ownership really "da bomb" anymore? What melts people's butter these days? We may need to reinvent our approach to compensation, benefits and the current 20th-century thinking on these old programs to track with the new 21st-century cogenerational workforce.

"Instead of asking 'How can I motivate people?' we should be asking 'How can I create the conditions within which people will motivate themselves?'" -- Edward Deci, psychologist

3. Engagement
Are you taking the steps necessary to improve accountability and action to move the employee engagement survey beyond simply scorekeeping? Engagement can produce significant results, but are you one of those companies that just worry about what percentile you are in rather than producing sustainable, meaningful results? Action trumps data. Accountability leads to action.

4. Change
Do all of your change initiatives really have sustainable paths? Or are they just quick wins and then revert back to bad habits? More change is afoot -- at an unprecedented pace -- as the economy starts to recover. We need to have change leaders prepared to lead and companies committed to investing the time and resources to make it happen.

5. Strategic workforce planning
Have you forecasted your needs for five to 10 years from now? Do you have control of your
human capital supply chain? If you do the planning now, and build the right strategy for the future workforce, as the economy continues to recover, you will win the talent acquisition and retention game.

6. Simplicity
In an age of purported complexity, those that realize "Simplicity is the ultimate form of
Sophistication" (da Vinci) can become unstuck, might unlearn old habits, and could discover that organization efficiency and effectiveness will improve! Can you keep the business process simpler, easier to understand and still drive incredible success?

Those that employ people need to renew the mantra that people count, people make the difference... that people are our most important asset. And the six challenges above are only the tip of the iceberg to repair some significant damage that has been done over the past six years.

Jim Finkelstein is the President and CEO of FutureSense, Inc. Jim is a student of people and is constantly searching for what melts their butter at work. He has dedicated his career to helping organizations improve their effectiveness through strategy and execution of simple and proven solutions. He believes in getting stuff