Are people really our greatest asset?
Plenty of people in Talent Management circles become extremely vexed when considering this subject. There is no doubt that many companies like to trumpet the message loudly in their literature and in person –yet many of them find it difficult to operate as if it were true.
And perhaps, it’s not? Plenty of people point to more valuable assets including Brand, Physical Assets, Cash etc as however, in most modern organisations, most opportunity and risk really resides in the ‘Human Capital’ of the business.
There is a school of thought which subscribes to the notion that the ‘right’ people are our greatest assets –the difficulty with this is that the concept of ‘rightness’ needs to be defined and that is not always politically correct or acceptable.
In effect, being ‘right’ is a combination of high productivity, high effectiveness, high potential and present and future relevancy for the organisation –this is a challenge both for employees and organisations themselves.
The issue for people is that it places a responsibility for them to maintain relevancy in terms of capability and effectiveness. It may free them to be much more employable and commercially ‘attractive’, but may also create the need for personal career planning and ‘effort’ and some people simply like to place their careers in the hands of their current organisation while they choose to simply live their day to day lives.
The issue for the organisation is that it assumes that it can think and plan forward for the types of people and effectiveness it will need. Some organisations who simply have a number/target which defines their mission and purpose will find this difficult. Larger and, possibly, more thoughtful organisations will need to be prepared to see their precious Engagement scores drop in the face of employees who become more purposeful and demanding of the organisation in helping them achieve their personal objectives. Another issue may well be the lack of sensible development required to help the organisation create the cultures and leadership/management styles required to create the level of dialogue needed to create the ‘right’ people.
The HR department may also be a block to the achievement of the goal of ‘rightness’ creation as they are often focussed more on their own purpose (arguably, risk prevention) and legitimacy (deciding whether they add value to the enterprise) to create a more ‘adult’ dialogue and introduce the concept of ‘rightness’.
Oddly, unions may well feel that their members would benefit from these approaches if they can get past the language used (‘rightness’ etc) which is too much the preserve of academics and consultants at the moment.
So a dilemma presents itself….the rhetoric is achievable, but only with some real change. The change must start at the top of the organisation –possibly the most tricky place of all where the pressure to deliver short term results gets in the way of the conversations and focus necessary to think differently and deliver the rhetoric. Ironically, the Board or Exec Management team (those who trumpet the loudest) may be the least ‘right’ for the organisation.
Maybe the debate needs to move away from the Human Capital arena and into the world of accounting. Much of the recent HCM research is (being polite) woolly and worthy and usually misses the real issues. Adding people to the bottom line of the business would focus the minds, then the work we have carried out with a range of VC’s and Private Equity firms who can value talent, would become more common place.
If you have a solution or an opinion, feel free to add it to the mix…!!