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Book Review: Human resources or human capital? Managing people as assets

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20th Aug 2012
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‘Human Resources or Human Capital?’ is a comprehensive introduction to HR but, for the more seasoned professional, also provides a thorough and practical analysis of the contribution of HR to the business.

The purpose of the book is to help HR pros and line managers alike boost their ability to manage ‘human capital’, which author, Andrew Mayo, defines as an organisation’s intangible assets that create value, both financial and non-financial. The work is a follow-up to his 2001 book ‘The Human Value of Enterprise’ and provides a clear description of the methods and difficulties involved in measuring value in general, and the value of human capital in particular, in an holistic sense. Each chapter begins with an introduction and ends with a summary and action points. As a result, the work is a very user-friendly reference tool that can be either dipped into or read from cover to cover, depending on your requirements.   In addition, Mayo helpfully refers the reader to other resources for further information or to obtain a different perspective.  The work is divided into two parts. Part one, which is entitled ‘People and Value Creation’, explains how employers can create value through people, how to measure that value and the importance of motivation, engagement and performance in developing it. It also explains how to record and report value in a largely non-financial sense as well as how to use any findings effectively. In part two, we see HR put into practice. Entitled ‘Human Resources Professionals in Partnership with the Business’, it opens by depicting the contribution of HR, before moving on to people and organisational strategies. This section also provides a scorecard for HR functions to use and describes how best to build up human capital management skills. Note that in terms of HR strategy, however, the author’s own model is the only one provided and so, if you are looking for a comparison of HR strategy models, this book is not for you.  Having said that, this situation does seem to be a one-off as, throughout the rest of the book, the author draws on a number of useful theories and models to provide the reader with a good foundation in HR practice. Reviewer’s rating The work is an engaging read, particularly because it uses not only text, but also diagrams, flow charts and tables to elucidate explanations. Additionally and where possible, the author likewise draws on case studies to provide practical examples of processes, models and strategies. Overall, I was very impressed with it. It is an incredibly comprehensive and yet clear and concise book. Even though there is a little “blowing of one’s own trumpet”, this self-importance can be forgiven as we do, after all, live in a competitive world.  As a result, the work is, in my opinion, worthy of a commendable four out of five stars.   

  • Our reviewer this time was Gemma Brown, assistant solicitor at law firm, TPP Law Ltd.
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