What is the one asset that organizations all over the world, no matter where they are located and what business they do, need to nurture? What is that one indispensable element for organizations to grow and stay ahead of the competition? Is it technology? Yes, but there is something that is more important than technology, and is in fact, the factor that gives rise to innovations in technology and other areas of business.
Isn’t it the organization’s employees who do all these? If employees don’t make the organization, who or what else does? Many people like to think of technology as the moving force and the key differentiator for organizations. This is true, but only superficially. If there is one source that technology, best practices, leadership and everything else evolve from and converge into, it is the organization’s employees, right? Does technology fall from the skies? Do best practices get implanted into the organization out of thin air? Does management consist of robots?
Isn’t the human factor at the core of all these? In other words, isn’t it humans that constitutes the soul of organizations? What are all these factors if they did not originate from humans? What are all these if they didn’t have humans shaping and channeling them, helping the organization optimize them? This is that all-important element that makes or breaks an organization, and that is the human capital.
An understanding of human capital
From the business perspective, human capital can be understood as being the collection of all the knowledge and skills an organization’s varied resources that go on to shape its very being. The OECD describes human capital this way:
The knowledge, skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services or ideas in market circumstances.
This definition makes human capital a very broad topic. When one extends human capital to the overall economy, it becomes an even wider canvas. For the purpose of this article, we will examine human capital from an organization’s perspective.
For an organization, human capital could consist of the employee’s strength in almost all areas that matter to the organization. Anyone who brings any skill of any degree is part of the human capital. Let us understand human capital from the standpoint of what capital itself means: a means for generating assets. Just like how investment is used as a means to generate wealth, in an organization, anyone that contributes to its growth is a human capital resource. The skills and talents, along with the experience and qualification each of its employees brings, are all part of the human capital.
So, in a broad sense, one can think of human capital as consisting of the tangible and nontangible assets that contribute to the organizations. Typically, one can think of the these among other elements as being part of human capital:
- Creativity and innovation
- Educational and skills qualifications
- Emotional Intelligence
- Interpersonal skills
- Skills at communication
- Best practices
- Constructive habits
- Positive thinking