I have a dirty little secret I need to share. I wasn’t always a Human Asset. I didn’t always think about my hiring bonus, my yearly bonus, my variable pay, my stock options, my gym membership, my personal concierge, my ergonomic workstation, my free soda and coffee, my weekly chair back massage, my flextime, my work-at-home time, my Facebook page, my birthday as a holiday, or the days I could bring my daughter, my son or my dog to work.
Truth be told, I was a liability.
It feels so much better to finally come out of the old mailroom.
Here’s the story. I worked my way through college, not because I had to but because my Dad thought it would be one of the more valuable lessons I could learn. I held low-level, entry-level, no highly skilled jobs like mail clerk for a big insurance company, short order cook on the grill at a neighborhood restaurant, waiter, bartender, waiter and even car attendant at a parking lot. I now remember all those jobs fondly. Why? Because of the beach. What I remember most is those first glorious days filled with the warmth of summer, ditching work with the gang, blasting the radio, grabbing my trunks and going to the beach. Dropping everything was easy—what was there to drop, an apron or a funny looking hairnet? Just call in sick and head for the shoreline. It seems that Human Liabilities had more fun. We worked and we were done. When was the last time you were “done”? We could call in sick and play hooky. It was expected. That’s why you were a Human Liability. When was the last time you played hooky? When was the last time you heard another Human Asset even talk about playing hooky?
Today, I’m a highly paid and well-respected Knowledge Worker, a valuable “Human Asset” with an impressive list of satisfied clients, successful programs and hard-won awards. I live two blocks from the ocean and haven’t seen it in weeks. I hear it every now and then; that’s how I know it’s still there. I’m just too busy. I work 24/7. Worldwide conference calls. Odd hours in my office. My virtual voice opining my virtual brain. Human Capital on the virtual hoof. I get over 150 emails a day. How many do you get? That’s how we Human Assets know we’re alive: I receive email therefore I am. If and when I go to the beach—or anywhere else for that matter—I take my iPhone, iPad, and multiple chargers. I’m like the little pink Energizer Bunny. I make sure my Knowledge Assets are always within my company’s reach. Never can tell when the ringtone “ROBOT” will scream CLIENT! That’s why I’m a Human Asset. Brain’s always “ON.” A Human Asset’s always working.
Recently I proudly told my Dad I was a Human Asset part of the Knowledge Capital of my company. He thought it was great.
“See,” he said “I told you working your way through school would be good for you, teach you a lesson.”
I asked him how it compared to the workers he managed when he was a Manufacturer. His answer was sobering.
“Are you kidding, those bums were nothing but a liability. They cost too much and always wanted more. They’d take time off for this and that holiday and always wanted more. The government made me pay a fortune in benefits and they always wanted more. Just one big pain in the you-know-where and a big liability. And to make matters worse, first sunny day, everyone calls in sick and heads for the beach. And they thought I didn’t know where they were going!”
I recall that period during the 1950s, seeing The Promise of Technology at the first World’s Fair after the war. The stentorian tones of the announcer as the moving sidewalk took you past one technological wonder after another intoning “…and so the promise of technology is to set us free from all the drudgery and hard work of doing things the hard way… technology will make us more effective and efficient, more satisfied with our lives, happier, with more time to do the things we really want to do.” There was even talk of the 20-hour workweek supported by all this technology. A 20-hour workweek is how I now define “vacation”.
I think I don’t want to be a Human Asset anymore. Looking back on it, I had a better life as a Human Liability. I think I’ll ditch work, play hooky, and go count sea otters.
A. Human “Hume” Asset is the CEO of KnowledgeStar, Inc., educating other Human Assets in Silicon Valley and anyplace else on the planet where companies need to turn their employees into Web 2.0 Knowledge Stars. He will do anything for eMoney, but mostly likes long walks on the beach, romantic dinners by firelight and hi tech toys, gadgets and gizmos.
This is the first in a series of corporate tales, told by my old friend Hume and his pals. Interested in telling us your story? Contact me directly or tell us a little in the comments below.
Photo by familymwr, via flickr