Reckless rewards do not pay!

news_2015-11-28_7_15_b  Mahbubur Rahman (1)


Human ‘Resource’ or ‘Capital’?

In 2005 Director General of Bangladesh Institute of Management asked us if they need to change the name of the course from PGDPM (Post Graduation Diploma in Personnel Management) to PGDHR (Post Graduation Management in Human Resources Management) mentioning that in his own opinion ‘academically there are no differences between the courses’. Since BIM is governed by Ministry of Industrial Affairs, the process is getting bureaucratic and hectic.

Our reply was unanimous: the change is badly required.

There are three major shifts from old to new concepts.

The term “personnel” was used when employees had been perceived just as another element of the production process i.e. machine, building, and land. Therefore, dubbing them as “human resources” had been a major shift in perspective, because with the term “human resource”, Humans come to the fore.

The development of capitalism always focuses on profit and tends to consider investment on the human resource as cost. In 80’s we have had some people cheering at the prospect of a huge surplus labor force that should result in multiplied profit with the advent of the computer. We used to hear theoretical buzzwords like ‘knowledge revolution’. Some leftists began to saw this surplus labor force as an opportunity for a socialist revolution!

We hear these days of robotics with the inherent myth of Robots replacing mortal labors in the production floors. Robots were envisioned as a new prospective force devoid of fatigue, stress, or boredom ensuring higher accuracy and skills. Owners need not pay them a monthly salary, increment, promotion, provident fund, gratuity, cars, vacation etc. No strike………all problems solved.

In the 90s we have seen the gradual introduction of computers in office management mostly as a replacement for typewriters. In the late 90s when computers began to be used as storage and recordkeeping they were making more burdens on people. The software was reactive; therefore we used to work first and then enter data into the computer to keep the record, sometime to analyze transactional reports. Gradually from 2000 on we could introduce proper integrated software that improved and modified the business process. Software became pro-active, we do things in the software and software gives output we need. Also, development of MIS started helping Management to know what is happening in his company; helped better decision making and forecast.

None of these developments could make human resources surplus. Instead what we got is a manpower equipped with IT knowledge; they use computers, software, MIS reports that ensure better management, efficiency, and efficacy. We have got human resources value increased. Disappointing the profit-makers, Man behind the Machine is now more skilled, more educated, literate and free.

“Free” is an important word when we evaluate human resource. As we know, in the history of slavery and feudal culture “Labor” was not free as it is today. Therefore, freedom of labor is related to the dignity of the human race.

Capitalist economy despite their gigantic efforts not to started understanding Human as not only an element of production but the most valuable resource that creates, builds, thinks and operates.

Labors are honored as the resource. This is how we perceive people, believe in human race, it’s a total philosophical shift towards humanity.

Unfortunately, some human resource specialists are trying to coin new terms e.g. “Human Capital Management” unaware of the original philosophy and perception behind it. They think that to an entrepreneur most important concern would be “Capital”, hence if they treat “Labor force” as Capital, labor will get importance, they will be nurtured, valued and respected. Mixing the concept of Human with money, land, and machinery these people again are trying to degrade humanity as a whole. It is not us to change or put on trial our dignity; it is the entrepreneur who needs to understand the importance of his own existence on earth.

The people who advocate for the term “Capital” says by definition, resources are finite. We can strip coal, gold and iron mines until the supply is exhausted. Capital can be infinite, as it can be used to produce more and more capital. The notion is very interesting and new. Let’s see form science point of view in “Brief History of Time”
Stephan Hawking tells us only “time” and “space” is infinite. Some theologies and science have problem even with that. Where sunlight is now known to be finite “Capital” is infinite (?) and with this argument, we are changing the definition of a discipline!

Rabindranath Tagore in Haimanti differentiated between “Shompod” and “Shompotti”, people who only understand profit would not understand the concept.

“Capital is capital – you spend something now, in hopes of getting a return on your investment later. Many companies have come to recognize their investment in human capital may be the most important investment they will ever make. When it comes to human capital, you are investing in people and the “return” you receive most likely is much more than financial gain. You may also gain knowledge, a larger group of contacts, more productivity, increased happiness and security.”…… A famous argument in favor of “Human Capital”.

Let’s focus on the last two lines of the above argument, the machine gives financial gain, money brings money, and those who love to call human resource a capital, are talking of gaining knowledge, happiness etc. I am not sure those should be a saleable product or no. On earth, no philosopher could ensure that money-capital brings knowledge and happiness because the richest country on earth is not the happiest.

In the course of historical paradigm the labor department became part of the administration, later became personnel department and now it stands as Human Resources Department. Let us not turn back by introducing new terms that degrade ‘Humanity’ again as a whole. If some entrepreneur does not understand the importance of his people, that is his problem. If he understands profit but ignores human as resources, in no time his profit will decline. Dissatisfied employees cannot contribute to earning profit.

“Human Resource” is purely a philosophical term and that is how we should perceive our workforce.