Human and social capital

Human and social capital

In my last 12 years of blogging I don’t think I’ve ever provided a list of predictions for the next year, as, despite the increasing rate of change, I don’t think things change that much / that quickly, and prefer to focus on the bigger, more strategic issues which are relatively stable over decades (still) rather than the more superficial opportunities, usually resulting from new technology, that perhaps do shift more rapidly.

However, I’m increasingly confident that many of the things I do focus on are becoming increasingly prioritised in many organisations:

1. Not just human but also social capital

The first is an ongoing shift from human to both human and social capital. Note, human capital isn’t becoming any less important, but social capital is clearly now more so too. The main reason for this is the increasing focus on specialism, but the need to confront increasingly broad, cross-disciplinary challenges, requiring us to work in teams, other groups and networks.

Social capital is the value between the people working in these groups and networks – based on their connections, relationships and conversations – as well as the value of the groups and networks themselves. This is different from the social capital referred to by Deloitte in their predictions for this last year. I, and most, people mean internal social capital within an organisation and value which is useful for providing direct business results, not separate to this.

When I ask people around the world whether their organisations compete on human or social capital, I generally get around 80% of people saying that social capital is the more important of these. Eg., see this summary of my presentation at this year’s HR Summit in Singapore.

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2. The second reason is the dysfunctionality caused by focusing on social capital in a collaborative world.

Eg I saw this BBC article this morning suggesting that ‘self-promoters’ do nothing but still get ahead at work: “The pseudo-engaged could often be encouraged by the managerial system – they’re rewarded for that dysfunctional behaviour.” Why? – because we reward human, not social capital.

So I’m pleased to see other predictions for the rise of social capital but it’s important to understand this is about a lot more than the use of social / organisation network analysis (SNA/ONA). In exactly the same way managing for human capital is a lot more than the use of engagement surveys.

See my recent webinar provided for Connected Commons, the main group promoting the use of ONA, for more on this.

I’ll take you through some of the other opportunities (or I suppose, broad predictions) next year, however, in brief, if we change the outputs and outcomes we’re trying to create (human to both human and social capital), everything else changes too – our organisation designs, the workplace design, our HR and management processes, organisation development interventions, use of digital technologies, management and leadership approaches, etc, etc.

This means we don’t need to artificially disrupt our existing processes, these change because they need to, in order to organically produce the outcomes we’ve decided that we need.


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