From “Human Capital” to “Human Potential”: The Future of Engagement and Learning



In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, change is rapid and continuous. Yet many of the ways we approach our work are based on outdated concepts from the Industrial Revolution like rigid job roles and inflexible organizational models.

Organizations need to be designed to adapt to—and thrive during—continuous change, and that means enabling ongoing learning and development. A model like this engages employees and creates an organization able to flourish in a sea of ongoing disruption.

This dynamic approach to work questions the term “human capital,” which implies a static model for how people fit into roles and organizations. By replacing that stale term with “human potential,” we shift our focus from maximizing efficiency to maximizing potential.

Organize work around outcomes, not hours.

While “clocking in and out” is less prevalent, the belief that more hours equal more productivity still has a strong hold on our work culture. Research shows the number of hours worked does not necessarily correlate to productivity, but many businesses still expect employees to be at a desk for at least 40 hours a week, a standard set by the Fair Labor Standards Act over 80 years ago. And, despite all the great work accomplished remotely by employees during the pandemic, many CEOs remain skeptical of flexible working arrangements and are demanding a physical return to the office.

Stanford scholar Alex Soojung-Kim Pang has studied over 100 companies across the globe and found that shortening workdays or weeks hasn’t negatively affected productivity. “If done right, shorter hours can help companies flourish,” he says in this Wall Street Journal article.

Employees want flexibility and they want to work for companies that value their contributions rather than the number of hours they spend at the office. Our company recently transitioned to using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to give everyone in the organization a clear view of our goals and how everyone’s efforts contribute. Focusing on outcomes instead of clocked hours is a mindset that improves time management, increases motivation, and lifts morale.

Understand and appreciate both the expertise—and potential—of your employees.  

When their contributions are valued, people are generally more happy at work, and companies like Wpromote do better. “We’re only going to succeed, and our clients are going to succeed, if we’re building a place where people want to grow their careers,” says the company’s chief operating officer, Michael Block.

Similarly, we are creating an Engineering Center of Excellence in our Melbourne office, and a big part of what we are offering to prospective hires is the opportunity to learn new skills and technologies.

Robust work environments are full of people who enjoy sharing their skills and expertise with others. This allows employees to learn new skills, and demonstrates your appreciation of each person’s unique capabilities. Providing both formal and informal learning opportunities helps create a dynamic work environment where people know the organization is invested in their growth and success.

Hire people who genuinely care about the work.

Employees remain invigorated when they have a genuine passion for what they are doing. Although passion can’t be quantified, it’s one of the most valuable attributes an employee can have. You can’t teach or train it. It’s either there, or it’s not, and this critical element is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of job fit.

When people feel passionate about their work, they seek opportunities to learn. These motivated people want to be at the top of their field and do cutting-edge work that matters to them.

Create collaborative environments where people make each other better.

Collaboration is a powerful tool that drives personal and organizational development and learning. It creates new channels of communication and helps people learn from each other. Methodologies such as Agile have been adopted at scale because of the transformative potential of effective collaboration.

To make environments truly collaborative, you need a framework that fosters the sharing of differing perspectives, encourages creative problem solving, and fully utilizes each person’s unique strengths. It’s important to allow individuals to shine, but equally important that individual performances contribute directly to the entire team’s success. When our small team started Xbox, one of the main reasons we were able to get the project launched was because the four of us brought very different perspectives that helped us quickly refine a resilient idea.

We know that people are the heart of any successful business. But creating the right organizational framework for today’s fast-paced world requires thoughtful, intentional strategies, and most importantly, questioning long-held assumptions. Just because something has been done a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean it’s still the right approach. Every organization is different, so try to avoid one-size-fits-all approaches. Experiment smartly, listen to your results and your team, and create an organizational model that works uniquely well for your company.

This article originally appeared in Forbes



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