capital—the newest buzz and the most relevant new paradigm shift
is hardly actually new. People have always been at the heart of
the equation. And many would argue the human factor is the only
equation with any meaning at all.
people been at the center of all productive output ever since our
genus graduated from primal slime? “Duh,” as they now say on Madison
Avenue or your local junior high. But that’s not really the point.
We think that the new focus on human capital is really in reaction
to more recent history, the technocratic industrial age that briefly
(well maybe for a couple of hundred years) fostered the ideology
that machines, computers, or mechanical things could replace people
in the workplace or at least relegate them to being little more
than the firewood for the furnaces of real productivity.
a lot of people, much smarter than us, have been sending that ghost
back to the grave for the last twenty years or so. And the rising
tide of collective thinking about human knowledge, skills, and experience
as the ultimate source of value has finally hit the major corporate
radar screens (aided and abetted by a war for talent and a shrinking
demographic pool). “Okay, I get it,” they say. “I have to do more
than just praise people in my annual report. I actually have to
start managing and developing them like the truly valuable capital
they are. How do I do that? How do I go beyond just more and better
no simple answer, of course. But, we start with some basic beliefs—the
assumptions, perspectives, and habits of thought that represent
a context for any program to pursue a more human-centric strategy.
We draw these beliefs from interviews, dialogs, and readings—but
also from a lot of personal experience. Each of us has had the privilege
to work in some of great institutions that appreciate human values
and spirit and that know better than others how to nurture “the
is our style, we give you a short and beginning list—to stimulate
your thinking, and initiate the conversation.
Hey, Bean-counters! Human Capital is a set of terms
put together to remind financial types that people are the critical
part of an organization’s makeup and that those people need to be
developed, managed, and also treated with the respect of at least
all the other capital. New and better terms than “human capital”
will continue to evolve.
Measurement Angst Given the complexity, get used
to imperfect metrics; be willing to accept the null set at least
some of the time. Balanced scorecards, talent numbers, and intellectual
capital measurement can be attempted and can even be helpful. But
Heisenberg’s uncertainties must be obeyed, and sometimes it’s just
not worth trying to quantify all that you have. There are only so
many minutes in each day. Use your time wisely.
Managing Means Coaching, Not Just Buying. Everybody
wants to source talent—bring on board people of great accomplishment,
knowledge, and performance capability. But what really matters is
what happens next. The value of human capital begins the moment
that talent joins the team. How they are engaged, treated, and developed
will ultimately determine whether they are productive or not. Every
new job is a new race, and every race is won by the team with not
only the best athletes, but also the best coaches.
Human Capital Investment Is Investment in Zig-Zag Capability.
In the New Economy, with change accelerating all the time, people
may not stay on your neatly defined path, but they can adapt to
all kids of situations. Consider the other capital sitting around
you—the chairs, lights, and even the computer. These work only with
the help of people. Treat your people like chairs and the only move
they’ll make is on to your competitors. Investing in people is an
investment in fluidity, problem-solving, and continuous reinvention
(alongside learning from our mistakes and our guffaws).
Virtual, Cross-Boundary, More Than You Realize. The
arena of managing human capital gets bigger and more slippery all
the time. The game goes beyond your door—you need to consider the
human talent of your suppliers, partners, contractors, allies, and
customers as well as your employees; everybody’s contributing to
the final product now. Cross-boundary also means more virtual; you
can’t plan on seeing or meeting with all the talent you need to
develop. Get used to multi, multi-media approaches.
The Technology Challenge Is Post-Automation. The
easy stuff—conceptually—is automating away brain-numbing work and
managing data. The real value is mostly still to come—when we discover
how to really extend and fulfill human capability with our machines.
Technology as an augmentation and enhancer of, not substitute for,
human capital has begun. But we’re only at the beginning.
Am Because I Can Vote. The only way to truly manage human capital
is to let it manage itself—or at least have a big say in how, where,
and why it participates in the organization. Expect and encourage
democratic processes and decision-making throughout the workplace.
The days of “I’m the brain, you’re the legs” are over.
Win, We Win. In the New Economy, every job has to be aligned
for the benefit of the knowledge worker, as well as the organization.
As obvious as it sounds, lots of managers still don’t get that.
Managing and developing Human Capital is always a dual mission.
Complex. This human capital thing is clearly multi-faceted.
In addition to “Knowledge capital” (codified knowledge storable
in repositories), and “Intellectual capital” (proprietary technologies,
processes, or ideas that can be patented or copyright), other kinds
of soft capital are in the mix: “Social Capital” (value potentially
produced when people work together and trust one another);“Relationship
capital” (value potentially created on the basis of collaborative
and distinctive exchanges); and even “Emotional Capital” (value
potentially produced by personal engagement, meaning, commitment,
or aspiration). There will be more to come, and more to understand.
Performance, but Also Thinking, Spirit, and Noble Aspirations.
Everyone needs to be productive and accountable; but the game has
grown beyond products, results, and deadlines. Innovation demands
reflection and time for “walking and thinking”; commitment and engagement
demand aligning not only objectives, but meaning in the workplace;
and stretching goals cannot ignore fundamental human feelings of
most everyone—wanting not only to do well, but also to do good,
make oneself better while also making the world a better place.
Not for profits become more like businesses and businesses become
more like not for profits. Embrace the blur.
invite you to add, modify, challenge, or enhance. It’s only release
1.0, and this kind of software is never finished.
At the time this article was published, Brook
Manville was publisher of LiNE Zine and the Chief Learning Officer
of Saba. Marcia Conner was editor in chief of LiNE Zine. Find more of her work at www.marciaconner.com.
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