Money Matters

Developing human capital

Money Matters
By Sirajuddin Aziz
Mon, 09, 20

Every few decades, professionals and opportunists, with equal vested interest, coin new words, slogans, clichés and catchy phrases, to convey the same original thought, which may have been in existence since the beginning of recorded human history. It is however presented and portrayed as new and original. That’s not the case most of the time; but invariably true. This is done for deception of the mind that conjures thoughts of appreciation for itself, proclaiming oneself to be the creator of not just the jargon, but falsely, the thought too.

Every few decades, professionals and opportunists, with equal vested interest, coin new words, slogans, clichés and catchy phrases, to convey the same original thought, which may have been in existence since the beginning of recorded human history. It is however presented and portrayed as new and original. That’s not the case most of the time; but invariably true. This is done for deception of the mind that conjures thoughts of appreciation for itself, proclaiming oneself to be the creator of not just the jargon, but falsely, the thought too.

The essence of thought does not change, when one says, in relation to analysing an issue, let’s think it over, from a different perspective or dimension, and instead say the more recent cliché of “think out of the box”! The two expressions in my view are synonymous. It is a case of old wine in new crystal Swarovski decanters. The taste doesn’t change, neither does the meaning. The title of this piece is as such also a cliché expression!

In a lighter vein I am reminded of the comment Samuel Johnson made after reviewing a manuscript, “your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good”. The copy has to be better than the original; otherwise it ceases to be a case of development of fresh thought. The simplicity of thought to be covered in this piece, is how does one train and produce quality human resource, that goes to benefit the economy and the society.

When the celebrated poet, Mirza Ghalib, in the mid-1850s complains through a composed verse, about how with each passing day, the liquor is getting expensive in Delhi; he is lamenting the economic concept of inflation. He doesn’t mention about price relationship, with its demand and supply. The essence of theory of inflation, that is demand chasing supply, is the same, the coinage is different.

Having sufficiently established that it is about giving new jargons to old concepts; so is true of Human Capital Development. So, what is human capital? Or differently said, what is human capital development? The OECD definition is, “the knowledge skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life and used to produce goods, services, or idea in market circumstances”. How does then one develop such human capital, is an obvious question? The answer can be several and decisively different and opposite to each other. Is university education, a basic necessity? Is it important to have been to an elitist school? Is it significantly relevant to belong to an affluent family? Each and many related questions will produce conflicting answers. So, how does an individual contribute towards human development? To delve into a possible satisfactory answer, it is best to establish in the first place, on what is human capital and its development, besides the OECD’s broad definitions.

Human capital is both available and potential human resource in an economy. Human capital development is about the process of improving an organisation’s or country’s performance, capabilities and resources. It is the single most critical element for success of a country or organisation.

A gross misunderstanding is that human capital development relates to a question only of technical skills that will contribute and serve present concepts of performance. Indeed, it is true that technical proficiency plays a critically dominant role, in the development of managers, but it doesn’t stop and end at this alone. It extends beyond. The opening of horizon of mind for drawing new vistas of vision and action, is also as much a part of human resources development; as vision and action are. Human capital is the stock of habits, knowledge, social and personality attributes embodied in an individual, organisation or country’s population, that is viewed in the context of value or cost of the entity or the country. An intangible asset is skill, knowledge and habits, with full potential to create tangible assets.

Those personality traits that are acquirable through training and focused development should be of great consequence to any economic policy document. Some personality traits are merely divinely blessed; and hence cannot be had by choice; but most human characteristics of both positive and negative nature, can be acquired through training and development function. I believe that all dogs, new and old breed can learn new tricks of the trade. Albert Einstein had said “once you stop learning, you start dying”.

The trait of honesty, which is an inborn divinely inspired trait, can over a period of time, take a back seat in the struggle of life. This happens in organisations, where individuals are encouraged in letter and spirit, to show preference to illusion against reality; virtuosity goes into shell with the unholy and ungodly comments; and where treachery, complicity, or craftiness overtakes loyalty.

The facet of self awareness is pivotal too for initiating or developing further the human resources pool. Knowing and discovering oneself allows for developing a deep sense of wisdom. Confucius wrote that, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: firstly, by reflection, which is noblest; second by limitation, which is the easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest”. Hence the pathway towards finding success in developing human resources is strewn with impediments and challenges of both the hardened existing mindset and the demand for creating acceptance within, for new horizons of knowledge and understanding. Failure to do so, we end up having literacy rate of 58 percent (reliability of this figure is doubted) but a more solid 99 percent guaranteed are illiterates. “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn” (Alvin Tofler).

The paramount demand upon the development of human capital arises in the form of discarding old, out-dated and sometimes the irrelevant ring of thought. There is that perennial need for continuous re-tooling, re-inventing and rebooting oneself.

The open mindedness of the entire society is crucial towards human resource development. It is not about a single individual; for an economy to proclaim its movement in developing human capital, it is imperative that liberated thought pervades through all sections of society. To develop human capital as an island of excellence, by the few or for the few, to the exclusion of the most, is essentially a wrongful contribution that leads towards building of an unjust and uncalled for an elitist mentality. Elitism in any format does not augur well for communities that seek to improve the quality of its human resource.

Human capital development is about having a mind set at the governmental, organisational and individual level to recognise that education ie real education begins only after leaving the university, with some qualification. The youth have to get their faculties channelized towards reasoning, exploring and making their minds open to accept emerging new ideas of handling the same or changing issue.

The evolving body of information and knowledge with the existing has to be contextualised for better discernment of ideas and opinions, not merely about others, but including of self.

No society or country can progress towards improving human capital without embracing technology. The world today and of the future will not permit knowledge of technological development as an option to choose. It will be a given thing and would have to be adopted. Innocence is not the cornerstone of human development, but awareness is. There is no anti thesis between spirituality and crescendo of knowledge and discovery. Human capital development pursuits must embrace multi-subject appreciation, ranging from natural sciences, physics, chemistry botany, economics, and literature to history, culture and geology. Over time pursuit becomes habit - and knowledge becomes character. A strong developed human capital is mother to all virtue and from the lack of its proceeds, all that is vice. It is said do not dwarf away talent because the peril, is to remain ignorant.

The development of human capital is dependent upon how the organisation or the county has in place the wherewithal to utilise, exploit and improve the latent talent or undiscovered talent; because possession of talent adds nothing to human capital development; it is the utilisation and proliferation of the special skill, knowledge or talent that will ensure, significant movement in quality improvement of its human resources.

A good education, with a person who is a poor manager of people and resources, nothing will be contributed of that the quality education to human capital. A successful entrepreneur on the contrary may have not seen a university, but he contributes to human capital. Human capital development is a composite of effort and certainly is not uni-dimensional. Developed human capital ferries nations and organisations to shores of economic safety, regardless of the severity of challenging storms or currents.


The writer is a banker and freelance contributor