Penny wise, pound foolish-human capital risk management

Do you know the actual value?

In spite of the considerable investment and development around the preservation of assets and the mitigation of risks across conventional corporate assets such as facilities, information, equipment and products, the same methodology and motivation remains far less advanced in regards to human capital.

Before any organization even explores risk management strategies for their human capital it is fundamentally important that they first determine the value at risk. Not only is it a case of valuing the contributions of the individual or groups of personnel but differentiating the value in which they contribute to the company, whether it be through the provision of specific skills and services or the commercial value they present the company. These distinctions also need to be made between job functions or management/executive levels. No two individuals are contributing to the company in the same manner, much less two diverse business functions.  How many companies even know this definitive financial value of their people?

Following the basics of valuation, and any other unique considerations that the company may have (mobile work force, fixed laborers, knowledge capital, research and development) a unit cost can then be applied for prioritizing strategies or expenditure. For example, an individual that reflects a unit cost/investment per hour of $1 will be less likely to addressed as a priority when compared to an individually that presents a unit cost/investment per hour of $100. However, if there are significant numbers of the basic unit cost of $1 at risk, that group as a whole may be a greater priority than that of a single or limited $100 per unit cost individual.

Threats and residual risks associated with human capital are many and varied. Over time a detailed and thorough analysis can be conducted to determine the probability, velocity of onset and other governing factors that will provide a single or annual loss expectancy to the company. A single loss expectancy, such as death, may cost the company significantly more than just the forecast value identified in the first stages. Conversely, an annual loss expectancy, especially in light of the fact many companies are unable to even quantify this loss, may equate to millions of dollars in lost productivity, administrative burden or opportune costs.

To truly understand or appreciate the current or potential losses to a company through their human capital it is imperative to model the disruptions and time loss (inclusive of management and departmental support) to a cellular and group level. If someone falls ill, how long are they unproductive? What does it cost the company? Should the become a victim of crime or their business activity disrupted due to a natural disaster, what is the cost to the company? When applied to our entire human capital asset base, what is our single and annual loss expectancy?

“You can’t improve what you can’t measure” If you are making a truly informed decision on where your assets are distributed, you can then make informed decisions around strategies to preserve their value. You also enjoy the benefits of comparative investment/management. Most companies are surprised to discover that despite their commitment to their people, they actually devalue their contribution by not acknowledging them as an asset and preserving it accordingly. Are you one of those companies?

Companies that have undertaken to approach the management of their human capital consistent with other corporate assets have found the process highly rewarding and very confronting. Conversely, those adverse to such strategies or behind the curve continue to loose more money than the cost of such preparation and mitigation. They too find over time that penny wise turned out to be pound foolish.


About Tony Ridley
Travel health, safety, security and risk management expert.

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