Human Resources: Viewing Employees As More than Overhead

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Can I share something I’ve been chewing on lately? Honestly, I’m still working through my thoughts on this, so I’m not sure this post will be very organized. Maybe there’s something here; maybe there isn’t. Perhaps this will turn into more of a rant than anything. I don’t know for sure…let’s find out together. I’ll just start typing and we’ll see where this ends up.

In business, we often refer to employees as “Human Resources”. Most businesses even have a whole department dedicated to this, as we currently do here at Betenbough Homes. There are whole degrees and certifications you can receive to become expert in dealing with such a thing. Before I go further, let’s stop and explore a few definitions. Just hang with me…

  • HUMANof, pertaining to, characteristic of, or having the nature of people; a human being is a person, especially as distinguished from other animals or as representing the  human species.
  • RESOURCESomething that an entity (i.e. country, city, business, family, etc.) has and can use to increase its wealth; a supply of something that someone has and can use  when it is needed; resources are valued by what they produce or what they will bring back in profit or wealth.

Meshing these two together would then give us the following definition:

  • HUMAN RESOURCEa person owned or employed by an entity that can be used to increase the entity’s wealth.

Employees are also often referred to as “Human Capital”. So here is another definition to add to our thoughts:

  •  CAPITALthe wealth, whether in money or property, owned or employed in business by an individual, firm, corporation, etc.; any form of wealth employed or capable of  being employed in the production of more wealth.

Once again, putting HUMAN and CAPITAL together, we can extrapolate another definition:

  • HUMAN CAPITALpersons owned or employed by an entity that are capable of being used in the production of more wealth.

See where I’m going yet? Wait, I have more. In light of the fact that Human Resources are considered “Overhead Expenses” of doing business, let me provide yet a few additional definitions…

  • OVERHEAD – an accounting term that refers to all ongoing business expenses; the operating expenses of doing business.
  • EXPENSEa loss/cost necessary for the sake of something gained; a sacrifice; something spent to attain a goal or accomplish a purpose.

Putting it all together, couldn’t you conclude that, by definition, employees are widely considered expenses employed by a business that are necessary in an effort to produce greater wealth?

Hospitality-ladiesAm I being overly cynical? Perhaps I am. However, if you have spent much time at all immersed in the marketplace culture, you’ll see that these definitions aren’t far off from the reality that most people experience every day. Employees are typically a means to an end. Businesses have their stacks of employees sitting right next to their stacks of paper and stacks of materials, and the goal is to put them all together and use them in a way that produces maximum profit. When you use one resource up, grab another one off the stack. That’s reality. It’s what we’re accustomed to. In some ways, it’s almost justifiable. After all, we’re paying them aren’t we? Isn’t it mutually beneficial? I pay you wages…you make me wealthy. Deal?

I’m certainly not against the idea that an employee should diligently work in an effort to earn his wages. Nor am I against the idea that a business should aspire to making a healthy profit. What I AM saying is that Jesus never treated ANYONE as a means. EVER. People weren’t a means to an end…they were the end. They were His purpose. They were why He woke up every morning. They were what motivated Him to put in the time each day. Every day brought new opportunities to connect with people, and He modeled how each one of those connections was a sacred opportunity to impact someone’s eternity.

You see, at Betenbough Homes we have been on this journey for some time now…a journey into the idea that profit producing and wealth building are terrible corporate missions. Yes, we consistently hold accountable each member of our team to perform the role they signed up for. And yes, we strive to make a profit each day so that we can continue in this work we’ve been given. But profit was never meant to be a purpose, and people were never meant to be treated as expendable resources.

The people…it’s why we do what we do. We certainly aren’t perfect, but I can assure you if the people went away, we would go find something else to do. Business has provided a wonderful opportunity to connect with some amazing people over the years, spawning deep and lasting relationships.

If you are a leader, ask God to give you a vision for who He carefully and uniquely crafted your team members to be…then aspire to help them grow into their potential. Jesus had a beautiful history on earth of seeing the good in people and calling that out of them. Let that sort of development of people be the gauge of how you’re doing as a leader instead of simply measuring throughput and profit per employee! Let it be said that those who flounder and fail under your watch did so only after you made every attempt to help them succeed. After clearly establishing responsibilities, focus less on what they produce, and more on helping them become successful in producing it. See the difference? Love them. Make it clear that you are for them and not against them. Lead as Jesus led…by humbly serving and putting others before yourself.

“Human Resources”…maybe we should all get together, say a few last words, have a moment of silence, and then kick that terminology to the moon! Oh Jon, isn’t it just semantics?! I don’t know…maybe. What I do know is that Ministry in the Marketplace is a revolution in every way. It will turn everything you ever thought you knew about business upside down.

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