Enterprise Software

Why Human Capital Management is insulting


Human Capital Management. Do those words irritate you? Perhaps I'm in a prickly mood but I just received a flyer in which a company offers to train me to do a better job in Human Capital Management because as a CIO I must obviously suck at it - or at least the flyer alludes to that. Additionally, this must be some special kind of ability because it costs a small fortune to learn about it.

As the flyer made its way into my recycle bin (I'm green - hehe) I thought about those three words: Human Capital Management. Coupled together they offend me. I am not a stock, money, or property. Nor am I owned, bought, sold or traded. I am not part of an inventory, I do not have a upc number, nor a known expiration date (at least I hope not). The idea of relating to employees as if they were cows or chickens bothers me. Adding Human to the term Capital Management doesn't make it less offensive to me either.

I know some of you may be saying "Relax Ramon, it's just a layer of abstraction for dealing with the concept of employees as a whole." To you I say "phooey!" - I told you I was feeling prickly. I think that whenever we take that step back, to dissociate the individual person from the human being that comes to work each day, making them vanilla for purposes of decision making and management, we are stepping into a dangerous area.

This is particularly true when it comes to motivation and getting the best from our employees. If you Google the phrase, you will find many hits in which the general topic is maximizing our investment in human capital by blah blah blah. I say blah blah because when you begin to talk about investment in human capital in the same sentence that you're talking about motivating your workforce, you are, in my opinion, about to read a bunch of BS.

When my staff walks in the door in the mornings (notice I did not say "when my human capital assets arrive at the workplace") each and every one of them brings with them a unique set of knowledge, talent, experiences, problems, and expectations. Nothing about them is "vanilla" when it comes to motivation. To say otherwise is actually a fallacy that management often adheres to—that employees are all the same and we can manage them and motivate them as a whole to "maximize thier potential." Oh I wish it were that easy. If it were, management and leadership would not be so difficult and good managers and leaders so hard to find.

There are those who would argue against me and say that, in fact, employees are all motivated by two things: money and security. They assume that there is a relationship between productivity and money and security - with the idea that if you increase either money, security or both, productivity will increase. Others might argue that that assumption is off and that if money is increased and security decreased, productivity will increase. I say to both - wrong!

I won't argue against the fact that both money and security have a powerful effect on productivity, but if the relationships between the three were as given above, picking the winner of the Superbowl or the World Series each year would be a piece of cake wouldn't it? Just lay your money on the team that pays its players the most and you will find the most motivated players right?

We all know that that's not the case and the so called "chemistry" of a team can play a huge difference. Where do you think that chemistry comes from? It comes largely from the team's leadership, both from management and from the individual leaders that make up the players.

If you think that treating your staff as vanilla will lead you to continuous and predictable success, you are mistaken. Yes, there are things that you can, and should do, with consistency as a manager for all employees (such as being honest and treating them with respect). But to get the most out of your staff, to reach the Superbowl for your organization, you need to know each person's idiosyncrasies as well and be able to manage on a personal level.

Frankly, I want to work for people and an organization that halfway cares about me as a person. I will and have taken less money to work in that sort of environment.

Maybe I'm just weird or perhaps unrealistic regarding my work expectations, but I want to be managed as a person and that's the way I want to be managed. I'd rather have my boss spend a few minutes with me taking my cares and concerns seriously rather than spending time and money learning how he can better manage his human capital portfolio.

Do you have a boss or an organization that thinks you're just a member of a herd? Is that perhaps the reason you work for yourself or consult? I'd like to hear your opinion, so chime in!

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