Is Marxism the missing link between HR and HCM?

“HR, are you going all Marxist on me?” asked my boss last week

“Why’s that?”

“Because all I hear you rambling on about at the water cooler these days is something called ‘human capital management’ (HCM). Put a ‘das’ in front of that, and we’re halfway to some shambolic east-European tractor collective in the darkest days of Stalinism! Only joking, HR, only joking.”

Well, joke he might, but we HR professionals are told often enough that we must measure the workforce to know its true value to the organisation. And, like many of you, I have various metrics in place to do so.

We measure the cost of recruitment, we benchmark salaries, we calculate output, we categorise by educational attainment and by ability. It won’t be long before we know which departments, on a per capita basis, of course, use the most double-ply toilet paper.

Indeed, our department is to human capital management what Stephen Hawking is to the universe: we’ve got it taped.

Which is why I couldn’t let my boss’s dig about the bearded bard of leftyism pass without riposte.

So, having leafed through a commentary on Das Kapital, I came armed for his next human capital jibe.

“Yes”, I told him, “there are similarities between a Marxist interpretation of human capital and our own HCM system, but only at the margins of intellectual rigour.”

I then told him that Marx did indeed explain the concept of human capital as the cost of labour plus the interest generated by that labour through output surplus to labour costs.

“HR,” he said, “you stand like a tall poppy in a field of waving wheat.”

What ever could he mean?

HR Hartley is an HR director at large


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