The value of a business is a function of how well the financial capital and the intellectual capital are managed by the human capital. You’d better get the human capital part right.
~ Dave Bookbinder, Author of The New ROI: Return on Individuals
The concept of human capital is not spoken about enough. As I imagine it, each person has a figurative dollar sign floating above each of our heads, increasing in value with each interaction, activity, and experience that enriches our sense of self-worth. Our human capital is the degree to which we value ourselves and defines how society and employers shall perceive that value.
A huge variety of things contribute to our human capital – and they are mutually implicated. It is not only about our captured emotional, academic, spiritual and professional intelligence, but also about how we share them. For example, our intellectual capacity is only as valuable as our confidence to assert it, while a great idea will not have much weight without the social dexterity to express it effectively.
From an organizational perspective, we have to look at human capital wearing two different hats: the employer and the employee. From a management perspective, individual employees should be seen holistically, so that who they are, where they come from, and what they need, is recognized and understood. From a professional development angle, it means that we cannot understand professional development without taking seriously the personal development that underpins it.
There is an old adage, “you can bring a horse to water, but…” (you know how the rest goes). Professional development cannot just be about giving people resources, or even equipping them with training. The challenge as a leader is to empower employees to proactively seek out and utilize these resources. This may be an issue of respect: both self-respect and an organization’s respect for their people. Within our organizations, we can show that we see the value of our employees’ human capital by taking visible actions and making some statements out loud. Express recognition for the fact that how individuals value themselves and their relationships with each other is pivotal in creating a flourishing team environment.
So what might this look like? The first place to turn is to your organization’s vision and mission statement. These lay the groundwork for your culture and the direction in which you lead your employees. If you have strong statements already, do all of your employees know what it is? Do they understand the message the same way that you do? Make it a point to share both statements regularly, i.e. at staff meetings, intercommunications, and quarterly meetings.
Potential employees may look at the organization’s vision and mission statements when researching if they would like to work for your organization. The culture envisaged and laid out here will seep into your association with each new hire. If you are looking to establish a culture of professional development, personal growth, and investment in people, make it a part of your organization’s vision or mission; hold your association accountable to prioritize this.
A culture that supports professional development is a culture that affirms the value and respect for each individual within the organization. Make professional development a line item on your annual strategic plan. Lay out an action plan to assess each individual to develop a personalized professional development plan. Set deadlines in that plan and be sure to check in on the progress or completion of defined goals. Remember, you can help set up the plan and provide the tools, but it is up to the employee to make it happen.
Don’t be an information hoarder: share your employees’ success with the world. As mentioned earlier, part of growing human capital involves sharing what we have learned. Nurture this growth by sharing how the organization is tracking on professionally developing its employees. Ask employees to share their own success story at a staff meeting, through a short video played at a board meeting, or maybe a testimonial included in a staff e-newsletter.
There is also a direct correlation between an organization’s success and how much it invests in its employees. I have seen P&L statements that included an annual employee engagement score and a line item for “employee engagement spending.” This speaks volumes – most importantly, it reflects that the organization really cares about the people in their employment as a crucial aspect of organizational success. Understanding employee engagement as a piece of the professional development puzzle, our associations can approach their associates holistically, with the full extent of their characters and potential in mind.
Ultimately, any move that increases the human capital of your employees is going to develop your organization as much as the individuals involved. Our professional development efforts should therefore go beyond imposing skill-specific trainings, to embracing the emotional, mental, cultural and social economy of each individual. Each employee, including yourself, is a stock in the company’s assets. Invest in your people and you will invest in your organization. Help keep that personal dollar sign in the green and support it in consistently increasing.