First Things First: A Holistic View of Human Capital Development

Your company has announced an ambitious new mission for 2020: to lead the world in XYZ production and services. As the L&D leader, what hard skills, soft skills, knowledge and talent do you need to accomplish that mission?

What do you focus on first? What skills will have the greatest near-term impact? What will be important to sustain the company through the competitive assaults that undoubtedly will come if you’re successful?

“Without a framework, we might miss the interdependence among all aspects of L&D and the business.”

More than 90 percent of C-level officers agree that learning and development is essential to viability today and competing tomorrow. Yet, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, only 8 percent of CEOs say they see business impact of L&D programs. Even fewer (4 percent) saw a clear ROI.

These are stressful times to be in learning and development. With such rapid change in job skills, it’s hard to make sure development is keeping pace. Anxiety intensifies with increased scrutiny of L&D links to business outcomes.

“These are themes I hear echoed from the L&D leaders I work with every day,” commented Dr. Michelle Eppler, executive director of Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab. “When I am confronted with multiple needs and multiple solutions, I find it’s helpful to create a map or diagram to support decision-making. In consulting with my colleagues in L&D, we created the Human Capital Ecosystem.”

The Human Capital Ecosystem is essentially a map that:

1Represents the holistic impact of human capital development, so it keeps us mindful of how one input impacts other outcomes. It also helps remind us that there are many aspects of development that can support or restrict the outcomes we seek.

2 Centers value around what our C-level colleagues care about. It’s an issue that only 4 percent of CEOs see ROI from their company’s development programs. “At the Human Capital Lab, we don’t believe that’s because of lack of performance on the part of L&D, but it may reflect a requirement for stronger focus,” commented Eppler, “or a stronger way to articulate program goals and business outcomes.”

3 Helps identify weaknesses or gaps and find solutions within the organizational portfolio. It highlights critical skills gap areas and examines how gaps impact other areas of business.

The Human Capital Ecosystem is designed to help learning leaders focus, solve problems, discover pain points and examine how processes connect and interact within the organization.

Ask more questions

Without a framework, organizations might miss the interdependence among aspects of the business. Knowing the skills of the team will guide learning leaders into asking better questions before starting a new program or process. “Instead of jumping to training a number of people on a software, for example, there are other questions you might ask first,” Dr. Eppler says. “What’s the business impact? What kind of performance is required to achieve that impact? What other aspects, like culture and leadership, will impact success? How can L&D have a greater impact on financial outcomes, social capital, corporate mission?”

There’s no question that human capital is responsible for value creation in business today. As human capital becomes increasingly critical, the focus is on L&D to make it impactful. The Human Capital Ecosystem helps L&D meet expectations from the C suite.

The Human Capital Lab™ is a think tank hosted by Bellevue University. It is dedicated to discovering statistically stable links between learning interventions and business outcomes. The Lab makes their studies available free to all members. Membership is free. Members also receive the monthly e-Newsletter, Innovation@Work, featuring latest studies and news about the human capital industry. Join the Lab:

You can download a poster of the Human Capital Ecosystem infographic here: