In our industry, we talk a lot about human capital. You know, the tangible and intangible value of the people who make up enterprises that produce goods and/or provide services for economic return.
Training, education and health benefits are all considered to be the investments we make in human capital, and they’re all positive things.
Except something about the words “human capital” really rubs me the wrong way.
Whenever I say or hear the words, I think of human chattel instead!
It’s an interesting slip given one definition of chattel is slave or bondsman. And in many ways, employees can feel like slaves to their corporate machine. They have to show up to the same place day in and day out, sometimes have to punch a clock, wear uniforms, follow specific procedures, and generally rely on their corporate “owners” for their livelihoods including health insurance and retirement.
Some employees would assert that their management doesn’t think of them as individuals or humans even, and that they feel like they really are just cogs in the wheels of commerce, fully replaceable and without individual characteristics, humanity, lives, or feelings.
N.B. I gathered the above generalization from some of the people who have come to me for individual coaching, and it’s usually for career transition to a different company or different role within the same company. I also want to throw out there that companies feel like they exchange salaries and stability for the working hours of their employees
Given that employees can feel like their jobs are tantamount to indentured servitude, what can a company do to really value their human CAPITAL even if they’re not necessarily quantifiable assets on the balance sheet?
(You knew that was coming, right?)
Coaching is pretty common among C-suite execs and higher level management, especially in the financial field. Tons of CEOs and EVPs use coaches to help them navigate the compressed lifestyle that running any sized business at a high level necessitates.
Attending meetings, answering to boards, making pivotal decisions, navigating travel, being responsible to stakeholders, having a family/personal life, all while maintaining one’s health and the bottom line are why these people get paid the big bucks.
Coaches are a great way to support busy executives in decision making and work/life balance; however, I believe that the biggest gains (the quantitative stuff) would be realized by creating a coaching culture in mid-level managers- the men and women who do feel like chattel.
They’re high enough up the food chain that they feel a certain amount of responsibility (e.g. stress) and yet not high enough up that they enjoy the status, multi six figure paychecks, and support staff of execs. Further, they’re the linchpins of business and often set the tone for their direct reports.
Unfortunately, my middle manager and individual contributor clients frequently feel adrift, have little to no management training, and don’t know how to balance their work and home lives, increasing dissatisfaction and performance at both.
Instead of letting these folks languish in the no-mans land of corporate America, I posit that spending some cash to engage fully with this population would offer a huge ROI regardless of company size.
I’ve been doing a literature review to test my hypothesis, so I’ll let you know what I find.