Human beings are not human capital and neither are “people” anyone’s “greatest asset.”

Among its varied definitions, the word “capital” includes “Chief in importance” or “relating to or being assets that add to the long-term net worth of a corporation.”

It would be wonderful to believe that those who use the business term “human capital” mean that “people are chief in importance.” That is also common sense because organizations are organizations through people, so they should be chief in importance because without them, a business or social service organization cannot operate.

More commonly though this ubiquitous phrase is meant synonymously with the economic value of the training, knowledge, and competencies within a workforce.


There are good rationale for trying to calculate the economic value of the skills, knowledge, and competencies of an individual and workforce as a whole. The challenge is when the effort to understand the economic value represented within a collective, creates an “us” and “them” culture, where some people are judging the worth and implying the expendability of others.

When people, who are the essence of the organization, begin to be looked at as assets who are separate from or belong to an organization, we stop seeing them as whole, dignified human beings. Beyond the moral issues associated with treating people as “less than” or “belonging to” is the integrity issue.

Integrity, which among other things means wholeness, is essential to an organization’s resilience and sustainability. The structural integrity of a building comes from its foundation. The taller the building, the more important every concrete block and joist becomes. The structural integrity of a business comes from its people. The larger the organization, the more important every person and the interactions between people become.

  • The bottom line of leadership is, how do you, truly, view the people of your organization?
  • Are they viewed as inextricably linked to the success of the organization?
  • Does everyone understand how much they and their choices matter?

Nothing matters more, than when people know how much they matter.


Welcome to Your Finest Hour, a summer series to help you discover how to connect with the best in others to achieve what matters most. To receive email updates in this series click subscribe to join my list.