The Human Resource
When an organisation starts to call its people a ‘human resource’, alarm bells should start ringing. Loudly. This human resource, people, should be the life blood of the organisation, it should be nurtured and grown, instead – through corporate terminology – it becomes abstracted and often taken for granted.
Sadly, as an organisation grows these basic and quite obvious facts are lost sight of. People are no longer people: they become ‘humans’, a term devoid of character, abstracted towards a statistical point of irrelevance; they are a ‘resource’, a commodity, nothing more. Put the two words – ‘human resource’ – together, and you arrive at the worst excesses of an organisation that has become soulless, where the mission statement, filled with passion, values and vision, has been lost sight of, in favour of just getting the job done (at the lowest cost possible, preferably with the fewest humans).
Seth Godin, in his book Lynchpin, describes the people within an organisation that are critical to its success, the people organisations rely on to shape and drive forward a vision. They should be nurtured and valued, they are critical to the organisation’s future success. Fail to nurture them and you risk jeopardising the business. Sadly, in many organisations this basic business fact is lost sight of, in favour of ‘finding efficiencies’, ‘maximising the return on human capital’, and other, similarly bizarre, bureaucratic phrases.
It’s no wonder monolithic businesses often fail. They grow and, in so doing, lose sight of what matters; people become humans and, in that subtle, but important semantic shift the people – the passionate individuals who drove the business forward, who gave it its lifeblood – become disillusioned and leave. The business, however, moves on, like a giant machine, unable to comprehend the significance of what it just lost, unable to understand the consequences of its now mindless actions.
This, unfortunately, is the sad reality of many large scale organisations. The system is such that it devalues the value of the people who pour their passion in to try and create something of value. They are, thanks to the nature of the beast, nothing more than tiny cogs in a giant machine.
That’s a myopic way of looking at the value of the individual in an organisation. Flip the telescope around and you’ll see that the people are the beating heart of the organisation, giant cogs in a tiny machine capable of tremendous growth. Empower these individuals, care for them and nurture their growth, and you’ll find the business will take care of itself.