Human Resource: Is it really the most important resource?

Posted: August 15, 2008 in Theories@Work
Tags: , , ,


In every major HR text that I have come across, they always have the same introduction. “Human resource is the most important resource for a company.” But if truth is told, is it really?

All of us are employees of a leagl entity called “the company”. It is a curious existence to work for. It has no mind of it’s own, no thoughts, no judgement and no plans for its own existence. Yet, it has a path, a goal, an objective and a definite purpose. And people who work for it provide it with the mind, thought, judgment and plan to fullfill that purpose. A company needs people to prolong it’s existence. But hypothetically, a company would still survive without people.

Unless each and every employee is gone, companies need not care about the people they lose. For every job, every post,Ā  every talent, there is a replacement available. Yes some talent are so important that losing them might hurt a company in the short run (Yahoo!, AMD). But in the long run a business entity with the right goals and objectives will get the replacement and will soon be on its way to the podium.

Resources are important, but one resource is hardly more important than the other. Human Resource is not the “most” important resource. It is a resource like everything else. It is perishable, replenishable and above all substitutable.

How? Suppose your whole finance department quit today, what will you do?

For 7 days you can make do with limited payouts and zero money transaction. And you can use those 7 days to evaluate 5 agencies who are willing to provide the same service under their own management with a similiar or even lower cost.

At the end of the day, my argument is this, HR is an important resource which is required for a company to reach it’s goal on a timely and efficient manner. But it is equally important as any other resource and does not require the special attention and care that any HR book may suggest. Just like raw materials, you need to make sure your Human Resource is of good quality, is preserved right, is processed right and is properly stored in the inventory.

And you should make sure that, just like your raw material,you have an alternative supplier for your HR as well.

  1. […] up on my previous post, a new argument has reared its head. But before that let us take into account my comrade, Muaz […]

  2. drabir says:

    All the comments on this note from facebook.

    Samir Rahman wrote
    at 12:15pm on August 15th, 2008
    a timely note & a good 1

    Azama Ghani wrote
    at 12:56pm on August 15th, 2008
    So true. But you know, they have the “Payroll”!!

    Faisal Tareque Chowdhury wrote
    at 1:23pm on August 15th, 2008
    Drabir, here are my realizations (totally my view):

    “Human is the most important of all the resources that a company has at its disposal” is the words that u find practically in Books and on mouths of personnel in top. However, in practice, believe me….this very resource is replacable and is being replaced with much ease.
    At the back of the minds of every top-notch people sitting in the high position, they are thinking very little about the ppl they are running (please read it ethically correct as “Guiding”).Their instincitve feelings is “If Dravid is not there, we will have some one else …no problem”.
    I believe,we had been really misguided in the academy as terming Human as the most valued resource…unless u hold very top position…and I hope u do know it by know how u get to top!!!

    However, your point of view is what is already in practice…”Human Resource is just like any resource…they don’t need special attention….” ….the only difference occurs – in words and in practice.

    Fahmeed Ferdaus Ratul wrote
    at 4:54pm on August 15th, 2008
    HR Txts do start with tht happy happy line…but then they go on to start a whole chapter on Replacement Planning!
    “u r the most important thing to me…but u know..just in case!”

    Sadrul Anam Tusher wrote
    at 8:20pm on August 15th, 2008
    Sad but True.

    Mohammad Muaz Jalil wrote
    at 10:57pm on August 15th, 2008
    Nice piece of writing Drabir. Now obviously i can agree with what you wrote and other comments but hey that wont be fun so let me take the opposing view. In business Risk is equated with Uncertainty, anything that increases uncertainty is therefore risky.

    Now “human” resource (collectively) is the riskiest of all because they have a mind of their own and as such any one of them or more, can walk out of the office if “he” she” they” so wishes, without prior warning. Now true everyone is expendable but then again nobody said that the criteria for being the most important resource has to be “nonexpendability” (i know the word does not exist). Thus being expendable and being the most important resource at the same time are “not” necessarily mutually exclusive.

    True, Organizations are becoming more complex and so there is a diminishing dependency on any particular individual. So in a way one can argue in todays world HR plays a lesser of a role. But then again dependency on any particular machine or hardware has also diminished. Plus due to increase complexity, risk is more damaging then ever b4!! And HR offers the greatest risk and hence it is of the greatest importance. (QED)

    hmmmm i have too much free time šŸ˜›

    Naser Chowdhury (Standard Chartered Bank) wrote
    at 9:07am on August 16th, 2008
    maybe one of Hrs more recent accomplishments has been its ability to ensure that no one person is indispensable. true, any business will always have its critical resources, but it seems that the corporate gods prefer short term monetary gains over any long term employee value.

    Drabir Alam wrote
    at 10:24am on August 16th, 2008
    Debates give rise to new possibilities. Muaz and Naser gave me a completely new perspective. Tomorrow, there will be a new post on my blog šŸ™‚

    Monwar Hussain wrote
    at 3:28pm on August 16th, 2008
    Naser, beshi joss POV. Yes, succession planning plays that part. Plus, unlike machinery, humans are ‘developmentable’; HR tries to do that as well through developmental programs and exposure, such as 360 feedbacks etc. It also guides people, through, say, talent management programs.

    I mean, yeah, Drabir bhai is always right in that it is just another resource. But this resource does have great potential to develop and grow, unlike most other resources (and will continue to be so until we reach singularity). So, falai na rekhe jinish take improve kora HR-er kaj. Abar chole gele jaate beshi koshto naa hoi shetao HR-er kaj. HR is almost like Maintenance in that regard! Human Maintenance. Resource maintenance.

    Regarding humans being the best resource there is, I am not sure if that is pure ethnocentrism; we humans do have that knack. But we are sentient and that is an unique characteristic, as such, we might be the only ones to provide guidance (i.e. by programming) and utilize other resources. So, within that sphere it makes good sense.

    Monwar Hussain wrote
    at 3:32pm on August 16th, 2008
    Uporer comment ta besh ‘ogochalo’ laaglo pore. Sorry if some parts are indecipherable!

    Drabir Alam wrote
    at 3:35pm on August 16th, 2008
    I don’t think Naser is talking about succession planning in the sense it is currently used. I think he is talking more about replacement planning, where you can replace someone or a group of people by outsourcing that function to a specialized agency.

    Monwar Hussain wrote
    at 3:36pm on August 16th, 2008
    At least in our case, SP covers RP. šŸ™‚

    Drabir Alam wrote
    at 3:42pm on August 16th, 2008
    Not a clue what you meant. You have to realize the capacity of you audience :D. I’m pretty dumb.

    Naser Chowdhury (Standard Chartered Bank) wrote
    at 4:26pm on August 16th, 2008
    I was talking about replacement

    Monwar Hussain wrote
    at 11:02pm on August 16th, 2008
    Drabir bhai, lojja diyen na!

    At least in our case, SP covers RP. šŸ™‚ –> At least in our case, Succession Planning covers Replacement Planning. šŸ™‚

    However, bulk recruitment planning is another thing altogether in my organization.

    This might not make sense to you based on your perception of Replacement Planning.

    Saad Jashim wrote
    at 7:47pm on August 18th, 2008
    Great post as usual Dabir. I must say that it has generated a lot of debate and logical arguement. I agree with Muaz in the sense that although human beings are resources like any other they are the only resource that decide what to do with the other resources. You have said it yourself that an organization has no logic, thinking or brains of its own besides those of the people working in it. Now consider this particular resource is like any other resource in that it comes and goes. The proper management of it would be to ensure that this attrition and subsequent replenishment is as smooth as possible.

    Now lets consider the complexity of this one particular resource. It is not like money which at any given time may have only a number of influencing factors. Human beings are by nature driven by something that is incomprehensible as emotion which may have many influencing factors. But as a HR manager you cannot just decide to give away all your maoney to retaining your people. So, you have to draw a fine line that must be cost-effective. Thus it is a critical resource at the least if yet you decide not to call it the most important. And managing it too happens to be very critical if not important.

    Drabir Alam wrote
    at 8:18am on August 19th, 2008
    @ Saad: The next post answers and puts up new arguments including some of your own. Check that one out

  3. Hi!

    Just sending you a short note to say I really enjoy reading your blog.

    Iā€™m Steph Cruz and I work for a background screening service provider called I was wondering if you would allow me to write a guest post for you. The article can be about HR, background checks, employment screening – or really any topic that you might find relevant.

    Please let me know how this idea sounds to you. Thanks in advance!

    Sincerely Yours,

    Anne Stephanie Cruz

  4. Robert Smith says:

    I disagree with this article on the basis that when there are no human resources the author’s solution is to seek…human resources. Other resources in the company you do not have to replace to stay in business, however, human resources is a resource that if you lose you must replace or you’re done.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s