Consider any awards ceremony in any field of endeavour and, regardless of how well-respected they are, you will be hard-pushed to find any that set an absolute or entirely objective standard that will be immune to the ravages of time. In fact there is probably a close correlation between award kudos and the length of time that the award has been running. Awards should never be given to a ‘flash-in-the-pan’.
Now before we go any further let us establish our benchmark here. If your company has just won the ‘Best Skip Hire Company’ Award of 2010, or if you have been the proud winner of ‘Employee of the Month’ for 240 consecutive months, I don’t wish to denigrate your achievements in any way but I’m thinking along the lines of Nobel Prizes here, not the ’10 metres swimming certificate’, or its 21st century corporate equivalent, the Award for ‘The-only-employee-who-actually-turned-up-for-work-every-day’.
Perhaps one of the most famous award ceremonies is the ‘The Oscars’ but they have always had their critics and judging something as disparate as films is always going to be subjective, problematic and often controversial. That is the very nature of awards – for every winner there are many embittered losers and disgruntled supporters. C’est la vie.
Very rarely do awards attract universal acclaim for their benefit to society, as with the Nobel prizes, but even the Nobel Committee have made a few choices that were notable for being inappropriate. Sometimes they are seen as odd choices at the time (the Peace Prize for Barack H. Obama, only 9 months into his Presidency) and some are dubious mainly with the benefit of hindsight (Myron Scholes for Economics in 1997 – the academic who helped invent the Black-Scholes model that, some would argue, formed the basis for many of the disastrous, financial derivative products that contributed to the financial collapse of 2008). Yet the kudos of a Nobel Prize has weathered these storms remarkably well.
So what I am proposing here is the equivalent of a ‘Nobel Prize’ for human capital management. The nearest we ever got to this was Gary Becker, who won the 1992 Economics Science prize – and that was about 30 years after he was credited with coining the term ‘human capital’. The need for greater recognition of this subject is long overdue and I cannot seriously think of any branch of economics (or even science?) that would have such universally valuable, societal benefits.
So if this is something that interests you or if, in your excitement, you have already removed your prized photograph of ‘Fastest Hamburger Flipper Award – 1985’ from your display cabinet to make room, then please visit the Top 10 in HCM page to find out more and if you want to nominate any organisation, or anyone in particular, feel free to do so by commenting below.
In the meantime, those of you who might have stumbled across my pieces about RBS, (and who adjudged them to be uncharacteristically acerbic) might understand the strength of my feelings when they discover that this is not the first time that I have tried to raise the bar for companies who profess to treat their people as ‘their greatest asset’ (excuse me while I laugh, or throw up, or both).
Back in 2005 a couple of colleagues and I made the very first attempt at establishing a rating scale for human capital management along the lines of an S&P (Standard and Poor’s) credit rating. We called it the Newbury Index and eventually awarded the Royal Bank of Scotland our lowest possible rating – a ‘D’. In case you don’t know what the ‘D’ stands for it means ‘Default’; in exactly the same way as an S&P ‘D’ signifies a company that is likely to default on its debts. At the time in question, a few years before it finally crashed, everyone else had given RBS a ‘triple A’ rating. So no nominations (posthumous or otherwise) for the likes of AIG, Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros, HBOS …… thank you.
It is fair to say that the credibility of the leading credit rating agencies has taken a nosedive recently and more and more investment analysts are starting to believe there is something in this new-fangled thing we call human capital reporting. It might not be a science just yet but with enough evidence we will get there – mark my words.
For personal development linked to this topic visit the Consummate Professional Series