I’ve blogged before about hard and soft human resources management, about the Michigan and the Harvard model, about to paying lip-service to it and the gap between theory and practice, and even about commitment (to commit or not to commit). But the more I think of HRM versus the old paradigm of “personnel management”, the more inconsistencies I detect.
Because if people was that important, it would be somewhere in the so called triple bottom line of the company, made of finance, social corporate responsibility a.k.a. CSR and sustainability a.k.a. our carbon footprint.
I feel that HRM is surprisingly absent of the triad.
But if we are to believe that people are our greatest asset they should be at our triple bottom line somewhere. Or even in several places.
The first place to look could be in financials. Maybe we could find our people in-between assets? I do not think so. After all assets are usually accounted at acquisition prices. And, fortunately, people are no longer acquired in the slave market. Consequently people are not assets for any company. Not anymore.
Where are those fundamental assets for the competitive advantage of the organisation? It’s funny to point that, not being assets, our relationship with our company is actually accounted as an expense. And some related concepts, such as our pension funds as liabilities… (wait, that’s not true, the pension funds are one of the main sources of creative accounting… where finance becomes an art. I’ll write about this another day though…)
In any case, it’s quite clear that our skills and abilities are not on the assets list. Neither the real value of our relationship with our company. Even when the opportunity cost of our leaving the company can be measured with the cost of recruiting our substitute, the cost of training her, the cost of the information the organisation is going to lack now, the cost of under-performance for our customers and many more.
But when we, employees, were encouraged to pursue our own learning and self development, it was clear that those assets would consequently become ours. So there’s nothing wrong with measuring assets that way. We are just another provider in an increasingly complex and atomised supply chain. Maybe we can still be in the second or third bottom line. Around corporate social responsibility, as stakeholders that we are. After all shareholders are only entitled the rights to the residual earnings, after the employees, the creditors and the state.
Let’s wake up. CSR and carbon footprints are only valid arguments when the company is earning money. But there’s only one bottom line: finance. And after that bottom line and before the second and the third there are still other business priorities as well as short-termism, insufficient resources allocated, resistance to change, and distrustful organisations. A huge gap that can’t be easily bridged. At least not with rhetoric.