Posted October 21, 2010 by

Human Capital Supply Chain

Human Capital Supply Chains book coverOne of the people that I hoped to meet with at the recent HR Technologies conference in Chicago was Tim Giehll, CEO of Bond Talent. Tim has over 30 years of experience in the staffing industry with an emphasis in technology and manufacturing. He’s drawn on his years of experience of managing workforces at IBM, Manpower, Sequent Computers, Chen Systems and Control Data in which more recent work with helping over 800 staffing firms automate their operations.

Tim wanted to discuss the new book that he co-wrote with Sara Moss, co-founder and CEO of The Code Works Inc.. The book, entitled Human Capital Supply Chains, initially put me off because I really, really hate the term “human capital.” I find it, quite frankly, dehumanizing and therefore demeaning. I wanted to talk with Tim about his ideas for the workplace and also see if I couldn’t persuade him to move away from the use of terms like human capital but the meeting just couldn’t happen due to my schedule. Tim was very understanding and even reached out to me after the conference to offer to meet back in our hometown of Minneapolis. He also sent to me a copy of the book.

I’ve read through the book and really like what Tim and Sara have written, even though I still wish they had used a term like “talent” or “human resources” rather than “human capital.” But if you can get past the “human capital” phrase or perhaps not be bothered by it at all, the points that Tim and Sara make in the book are excellent. As stated on the introduction page of their web site, “Corporate leaders who are able to react to market improvements with agility are best positioned to hire the best human capital faster than their competition. Human Capital Supply Chains explains how companies can link their strategic workforce planning and staffing functions more tightly to their business planning functions to optimize workforce productivity and decrease the total cost of human capital, while maintaining or increasing the overall quality of their workforce.”

When I first read that and also watched their YouTube trailer for the book, I was prepared for a cold, bottom line, who cares about people kind of approach to staffing. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, Tim and Sara make the case in the book that when we head into recessions — even terrible ones like we’re coming out of — business leaders should have a more fluid approach to managing their workforces. If the leaders had done a better job of understanding that their businesses were slowing, they would have done a better job of gradually ramping down their staffing levels such as through attrition. Instead, many and perhaps most business leaders reacted in a state of panic and engaged in massive and far more painful layoffs. Organizations of all sizes and the people who work for those organizations would be better served by leaders who “calibrate and fine tune their workforce, quickly responding to changing market conditions in small steps rather than in painful mass layoffs or mass rehire campaigns where workforce quality is likely to suffer.”

If you’re a leader of a large organization, a procurement manager, or a staffing leader, this is a book that you should read. The massive layoffs of this recession are still very fresh in our minds yet I suspect that few organizations have really sat down to de-brief what they did and what they should have done instead. This book will help them with that reflection and planning. We have an obligation to our organizations and shareholders to survive and thrive but we also have an obligation to our employees to treat them as human beings and that means with respect and compassion. Massive layoffs caused by panic in the executive halls is not respectful or compassionate. So whether your focus is on doing right for the bottom line or doing right for your fellow workers, this book will help you.

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