From the CIO

True or False: People are Our Greatest Asset 

(guest post provided by Suzi McLain, Director of Strategic Human Capital, AITS)

I came across an article a while back tossing around the question of whether it makes sense to say, “Our people are our greatest asset.” It’s a common, widely accepted value statement for many organizations, my own included. In a similar vein, I was recently challenged by a colleague regarding the appropriateness of the term “human capital,” a common industry term, for the division of our organization focused on people-related programs and initiatives.

People should be viewed as the heart and soul of every organization. Right?  Does referring to the function as “human capital” or employees as “assets” infer otherwise? Hmmm… Perhaps, perhaps not. On the one hand, the use of the word “asset” (as an object of production that’s owned by the employer) elicits a reaction on an emotional level. On the other hand, one could argue that the phrase itself is less important than actions. If the leader of our organization talks about this value publicly (he does) and backs it up with his support for programs and practices that nurture employees’ health, knowledge, and engagement (he does), does that forgive the use of the word/phrase and remove or lessen its negative connotation?

I’ve pondered both questions. My conclusion?  It’s my opinion that both the claim and the phrase, while perhaps well-intentioned, may miss the mark, and there’s probably a better way to say it. Maybe “people are our greatest strength.”

What do you think?  True or false - are people our greatest asset? Give me your most compelling argument to support or refute.  And for extra credit points, how would you improve the value “our people are our greatest asset?”

Posted by Wendy Bertram On 03/02/2016 at 3:35 PM  1 Comment

Jim Caputo (Guest) said On 03/02/2016 at 7:28 PM
I believe the term, "Human Capital", unwittingly serves to dehumanize the person. True. People are our greatest asset, and "Human Capital" is indeed an industry term, coined back in the 1960's. But the "industry" consists of large groups of people, who are just as prone to herd mentality and group think as any other group. There was a time when large groups of people knew the earth was flat and the sun revolved around the earth. "Skills Capital" acknowledges the inanimate skills each person brings to the table, without lumping us into the same category as office chairs and ink cartridges.   
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