Who am I? The role of human capital in a global workplace

I recently was approached by a professor at one of the local universities with an invitation to come speak to her leadership classes. She asked me to demonstrate for mostly financial background MBA students what the soft side of human resources, i.e., management,

As I began to prepare my presentation for the classes I chose to follow the human capital resources through each of the ages we have traversed since the 1770’s. When we were primarily on the farm, we learned how to work in cross functional collaborative teams. It was part of the fabric of our lives that we looked to help the individual be successful in owning and operating the farm. It was a period when we saw the rise of the “Quaker Business Model” which believed that the role of the organization was to do what ever was necessary to see that the best came out in every individual. Diane Cadbury in her book The Chocolate Wars talked about how her family helped out the employees by encouraging them to continue their education, provided the first health insurance plans and other similar efforts to enhance the life they lived.

When we moved to the industrial age, the individual changed their relationship with the organization reverting to a mere number. The key was that they could now support their family by working within a big city. This philosophy has now extended to the way many organizations look at employees today. The economy tanks and instead of trying to see how to reinvent the processes we utilize, the strategy is to see how many human capital resources we can cut to bring costs inline with a subjective target. Never mind that those human capital resources represent the knowledge base of the organization. Never mind that few organizations take into consideration that cutting staff does not reduce the workload, in fact it escalates the load on the remaining staff.

By the beginning of the 21st century we have changed our paths so that the benefit from the organization is what we dream not what we produce or make. This change in focus also changes the role that human capital resources play within our organizations. One of the problems we see is that every day there is another story about organizations that are trying to enforce non-competition clauses on departing human capital resources. The difficulty is that our human capital are not number any longer, They are corporate assets that are free to wander as they choose. we in essence lease their services with the understanding that if we do not meet their needs they are gone to somewhere that will respect their value to our organizations.

This new paradigm calls for new strategies to utilize the human capital resources. This means we have to gain a better understanding of the importance of the role they play in the future of your workplace. These strategies can be divided into categories of expectations:

  • The human capital must be engaged in their work environment on the basis that they want.
  • The workplace must be designed around a system that provides the routes for the employee to enhance their learning of skills that will improve they way they deliver what is in their minds.
  • What ever processes we put in place must have as its goal the manifestation that the efforts put forth by the human capital resources are appreciated by the organization, not just taken for granted.
  • The organization needs to ensure that any conditions that lead to a hostile workplace are eliminated. This means free from harassment on the part of management, fellow employees and outside vendors.
  • The organization needs to ensure that an employee can come to work and feel that will not be exposed to actions by others that can be classified as violent in nature. It also includes the organizational efforts to ensure that no one brings illicit drugs into the workplace.
  • The human capital assets expect that they will be respected for who they are and what they contribute to the organization not having their growth stymied because of biases on the part of the organization as to what they can achieve.
  • Finally it is absolutely that the top management efforts represent total buy in to the new paradigm, not just giving it lip service.

As a human resource professional within your organization, it is your task to see that the organization moves toward this new direction. Human capital resources are vital to the successes of our businesses. You make the decision as to whether your organization maintains the status quo or heads in the direction of the new paradigm.

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