Human Capital Defined
Dave is a human resource specialist for a smartphone company, and his job is to find and cultivate human capital. Capital is a type of asset that allows a business to make more money or otherwise further its goals. Examples of capital include plant, tools, and equipment. Human capital is the sum total of a person’s knowledge and skills that the company can use to further its goals. For example, Dave’s company needs people with knowledge and skills in engineering, computer software design, manufacturing, finance, law, accounting and management, just to name a few.
Importance of Human Capital
Until we develop artificial intelligence, we pretty much need human capital to accomplish anything in the world today. In fact, it takes human capital to create some other forms of capital. While a machine may eliminate the need to have hundreds of production workers make stuff, it still took human capital to design and build the machine. And as we move deeper and deeper into a knowledge-based economy that depends on information, knowledge and high-level skills, human capital will become increasingly important. Dave’s smartphone company is an example of a knowledge-based business where information, data and knowledge is paramount for success.
The Roles of Human Resource Management
Human resource management is involved in acquiring, cultivating, and retaining human capital. Dave and his department are responsible for finding, recruiting and selecting people possessing the right knowledge, skills and abilities that the company needs. In other words, the staffing function can be thought of as acquiring human capital.
Employees will come on board with a general level of human capital, including communication skills, the ability to collect and process information in various ways and the ability to critically think and problem solve. Some employees will have specialized knowledge, such as software engineering and management skills. However, sometimes human capital needs to be refined like crude oil is refined into gasoline.
As a human resource specialist, Dave may build up firm-specific human capital through orientation and training. Firm-specific human capital is knowledge and skills that are specific to a particular business that make a person more productive within the specific business. Examples range from knowing how to operate the company’s custom computer software to understanding the company’s specific organizational culture to knowing where to find the restrooms.