Human capital is an intangible asset - it is not owned by the firm that employs it and is generally not fungible. Specifically, individuals arrive at 9am and leave at 5pm (in the conventional office model) taking most of their knowledge and relationships with them.
Human capital when viewed from a time perspective consumes time in one of key activities:
- Knowledge (activities involving one employee),
- Collaboration (activities involving more than 1 employee),
- Processes (activities specifically focused on the knowledge and collaborative activities generated by organizational structure – such as silo impacts, internal politics, etc.) and
- Absence (annual leave, sick leave, holidays, etc.).
Despite the lack of formal ownership, firms can and do gain from high levels of training, in part because it creates a corporate culture or vocabulary teams use to create cohesion.
In recent economic writings the concept of firm-specific human capital, which includes those social relationships, individual instincts, and instructional details that are of value within one firm (but not in general), appears by way of explaining some labour mobility issues and such phenomena as golden handcuffs. Workers can be more valuable where they are simply for having acquired this knowledge, these skills and these instincts. Accordingly the firm gains for their unwillingness to leave and market talents elsewhere.
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