Phrases like Is your organization staffed by human capital? Do you talk about head count? Do managers talk about “their people?”

Phrases like “head count,” “human capital,” and “my people,” dehumanize and objectify. We could push this further and make the same argument for “human resources.”

Managers who see others as an “it” or property, might make perfect donors for heart transplants — their hearts have had such little use!

This year’s survey by Deloitte (with the badly chosen title of Human Capital Trends) concludes that organizations need to reinvent themselves with a human focus. Overlooking this phrase (“human capital” really is an oxymoron) that dehumanizes people into capital (assets with skin?), the survey flags key issues for today’s leaders. The 100 plus page report is entitled, Leading the Social Enterprise: Reinvent with a Human Focus.

The report calls a social enterprise “an organization whose mission combines revenue growth and profit-making with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholder network. This includes listening to, investing in, and actively managing the trends that are shaping today’s world. It is an organization that shoulders its responsibility to be a good citizen (both inside and outside the organization), serving as a role model for its peers and promoting a high degree of collaboration at every level of the organization.”

Based on nearly 10,000 survey responses in 119 countries, here are a few key points that stand out:

  • 86% of respondents believe they must reinvent their ability to learn.
  • CEOs rated their number one issue as “impact on society, including income inequality, diversity, and the environment.”
  • The number one reason people quit their jobs is the “inability to learn and grow.”
  • As workplace automation increases, “we see a need to put meaning back into work.”
  • Organizational performance is a team sport.
  • Organizations need to move “beyond mission statement and philanthropy to learn to lead (their emphasis) the social enterprise — and reinvent themselves around a human focus.”

The report offers these “benchmarks for reinvention”:

  • Purpose and Meaning
  • Ethics and Fairness
  • Growth and Passion
  • Collaboration and Personal Relationships
  • Transparency and Openness

How’s your team/organization doing against these benchmarks? How are you doing? Are you people-focused? What do your peers and those you lead really think? How do you know?

I was raised on a farm. When I hear managers talk about “head count,” I think of cattle. In the community where I grew up, farmers would ask each other “how many head are you farming?” when talking about cows, pigs, or goats.

Strong leaders don’t see resources, heads, or human capital; they see people. Most of us want to be treated as a person, not a resource.

In his new book, Co-Human Harmony: Using Our Shared Humanity to Bridge Divides, Gudjon Bergmann, writes, “The most important project at this moment in history is to reclaim a social connection to the human persona, to move away from dehumanizing and otherizing in the direction of co-humanizing.”

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