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How to Avoid an Abusive Human Capital Crisis

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Great vision without great people is irrelevant. –Jim Collins

Human capital is a measurement by which we classify the worth of an employee. The idea separates personality and skills. Of course, as we all know, personality dramatically affects someone’s rise or fall within a company.

In generations prior, the incentive of a job was to earn a living. It was clear what your expectations were, and your job responsibilities were precisely outlined. Today too many employers have you believe the incentive is not calculated by the wages you’re earning but by your ability to be overtly flexible, overextended and pledge allegiance to the “organizational family.” The result is not just an unbelievable wage gap between senior management and everyone else but also a point of public resentment that has recently boiled to the surface.

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I’ve learned the hard way that you are not your job. In the United States, we’re working more hours on average than in any other country. Forced overtime, double pay for having to work Federal Holidays and receiving a small salary bump for taking on an entire additional job are all current tactics that have turned the idea of extra earning into something gross and unappealing. The result is the employee incentive of earning has changed to a demand for fairer pay, without additional responsibilities and a docile business environment with scheduled hours and respect between colleagues and supervisors. Sounds reasonable, right?

As a country, we stepped away from reason years ago. We’ve become a self-involved nation that has forgotten the values of civility, diplomacy and forgiveness. We are in a vicious cycle of employees demanding their due, bosses dismissing or fueling resignations and rebellion. Management cannot make any positive change for employees, and they are losing trust and support from employees.

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Top leaders have been replaced in this country more frequently this past year than in our recorded history. A record number of employees quit their job in 2022. And the hiring market has never been so entropic, with recruiters unable to keep up with demand, only to learn their clients turned down work due to unwieldy employment narratives scribed by nervous Human Resource departments of desperate companies.

Neither employee nor employer can seem to communicate their needs effectively. And it is causing our economy a great disservice. Why we cannot seem to find a middle ground is not just frightening but disappointing as the middle-class declines, furthering the gap between wealth and poverty.

Our country was founded on freedoms to promote good faith between the government and one another. Where have we gotten so lost that the value of a human is associated with how many hours they can work in a given day? We must fix this together. Collectively, we are the reason we’re reliving this unproductive cycle repeatedly.

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And what do I propose we do? Communicate. Hear each other out. See where the discrepancy is and find a compromise. There is always room. Commit to one another not just by voice but document it and have it fully executed by the parties. When it’s done, walk away feeling okay, not great, but knowing there has been forward movement.

The longer we stay static on this subject, the harsher it will be for businesses to recover, meaning less work available, meaning higher unemployment rates, meaning higher crime, meaning a decline in property value, meaning a sharp decline in residency, meaning the death of industry in dying cities across the red, white and blue.

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With a recession in the headlights, with numbers of employee and employer dissatisfaction so high and unbending to change, plunging us into depression, it is not impractical to forecast that outcome when over the past two years, dissenting opinions have grown so diverged and a call for accountability has communities’ launching witch hunts for justice. The problem is that both sides want it, and neither will settle for less than they are asking. This is societal ruin in real-time, and we all are guilty.

Abolish the term human capital. This word has remained in our business vocabulary for too long. It may not seem like much, but words have power, and I bet it’ll be a step towards discussion and remedy. If, at this moment, we can agree on only one thing, let it be of letting go of such a toxic term that no longer has use to anyone.

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