This is model 4 of the series. The concept is simple. Imagine that you, as an employee, are in reality an investor. Not of money, but of another form of capital: your own human (intellectual) capital. The employer pays you for the use of that capital with a promise to grow it. Employers are Intellectual Capital Fund Managers.
Good Fund Mangers will deliver good returns. At the end of the year you should expect a return on your (human) capital that has been invested: better skills, personal and professional enhancement, greater ‘market value’ and ‘market-ability’, more knowledge, new experience… You define your expected returns. After all, you are the investor.
Nobody (invests) gives capital to Fund Mangers with a poor track record. You should not expect a year-end with no growth (or indeed, loss of capital!). The deal with your employer is that the contract is for the use and growth of your Human Capital. So, the one who is really in charge here is actually you. Novel concept. HR departments become ‘Human Capital Investment Fund Brokers’. The company is a big investment fund.
The idea is old and I have written about this several times before, for example in Disruptive Ideas. For various reasons, it has not obtained great visibility.
There is a connection here with ‘The Alliance’, by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh. These authors propose an employee-employer form of ‘contract’, with mutually beneficial rules of the game over a period of agreed time (not a forever relationship) that they baptise as ‘Tours of Duty’, which I think is an unfortunate name. But these ‘Tours of Duty’ are not the same as the relationships in the ‘Investors Metaphor’.
Pros. The Investors metaphor model is a smart way to reposition the power of the employee. Engagement is high! How could it be otherwise if you are the investor? Why would you invest in a mediocre way, or half hearted effort?
Cons. It’s highly disruptive in terms of organizational models. Companies may be shouting at you: ‘Investor in what?’. I have seen reactions to this in the past, from my own client work, of the type: ‘Interesting!’ (which is an English expression that translates into anything from ‘I don’t believe you’ to ‘nonsense’, but never, ever truly ‘interesting’). Proponents of the ‘Build to last’ old school of thinking are restless about models that don’t shoot for long(er) term stability. The ‘Investors Metaphor’ may seem like one of these but it’s not. You’ll invest for as long as (a) you have something to invest (so if you are poor in Human Capital, or becoming poorer, you have a problem) and (b) the return on your investment is worth it.
So what? The ‘Investors Metaphor’ makes you think. A lot. It’s a legitimate model of employee engagement, although hardly referred to. Use it in combination with other ingredients and the cooking looks (and smells) promising. More to come.
Next: a very novel concept. What if Employee Engagement (as opposed to non-engagement) was morally right on its own merits? Period.