Online Edition - April 2000
Issue Highlight - Hard
Measures for Human Values
Looking For Adventure
Healing Blue Cross And Blue Shield
Applying The Magic Of Disney
When Teams Are Destructive
Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Diary of a Shutdown
Hard Measures For Human
--We have now made the stock market our primary measure of well-being. It is the lead story on the news, it stares me in the face at the top of my home page.
--It peers at me from the lower right hand corner of my TV screen. It is not only in the news, but it has entered my consciousness.
-- I know how the Dow Jones average did yesterday. It was up 45.21 for the day. At 11:00 a.m. the DJIA was down 11.25 points but due to midday positive earnings reports from Merck and Johnson & Johnson the market rallied to be up 65.42, and then backed off late in the session due to some profit taking to close at 10,246.21 for the day. Like I said, it was up 45.21 for the day, not bad for a pre-holiday weekday, given the fact that Federal Reserve Board Chairman Allan Greenspan, who defines monetary policy, suffered bronchitis over the weekend.
-- Also, The NASDAQ Index was down 7.04 points. It also had an up and down day, feeling pretty good in the morning, but had something for lunch that did not sit well and so closed slightly down.
-- Also, I have noticed that many of my friends are slightly down these days. They think it is because of the long winter or their marriage is a little strained and top management is losing some enthusiasm for their project. They are wrong about this diagnosis. They are really slightly down because both markets are only up slightly for the year. And the Federal Reserve Board is likely to raise interest rates soon, which is likely to depress the market, at least in the short run, until first-quarter earnings reports next week, which are expected to be slightly higher than analysts' estimates, especially in the B-to-B technology sector. I used to think that B-to-B had something to do with pollination.
--I may be wrong about the moods of my friends, but I am sure about the markets. So why do I know more about the well-being of these market indexes than I do about most of my friends? The stock market has become much more important than an index of economic value, it has become a thermometer of our morale and the justification of a culture.
--As the stock market has become essential to my sense of well-being, the importance of relationships and the value of the person and their social and emotional well-being has been in decline. Our investments in employees and citizens are in decline everywhere except on Web sites and call centers. This is "values" migration of a significant order.
--So what to do about this? Well, I have been taught if you cannot measure something, it will not improve. So, I would like to propose that we start measuring the "Value of the Person." We need to create a national human condition index to parallel the stock market indexes. It would be a lead story on the news, reported for free on home pages and creep onto the lower left corner of my TV screen.
--We might call it the HVI, the Human Value Index. It would be a way of measuring the choice for human values over economic values in a carefully selected sampling of organizations. I am proposing a market index of spiritual currency about life in the Fortune 500 and the NASDAQ 100 companies. Here are some first thoughts about what we should start measuring:
1. The proportion of human resource budgets devoted to Web sites and call centers (vs. headcount devoted to face-to-face service). Most human resource functions are converting to a Web sites and 800 numbers. Change management, training and employee relations positions are being reduced to finance the conversion.
2. The number of 40/10 employees. Employees over 40 years old and with 10 years service are an endangered species. Most of these high-cost people are being converted to 25/1.
3. The number of phone calls answered by a human being divided by the average wait time while the companies are serving other customers. It is almost impossible to find another human voice on the other end of a telephone. Answering machines, call screening and automated customer service mean that leaving messages has replaced conversation.
4. The percentage of knowledge workers working an eight-hour day, five-day week. Advances achieved by the labor movement early in this century have been de facto repealed. Twenty-four/seven is now the standard and personal time, family and sleep are seen as obstacles to getting the job done.
5. The quality or existence of benefit packages for temporary workers, especially those that are designated "permanent part-time." Contingent.
6. The number and sales of selected consulting and training companies that focus on the person. These are shrinking and merging. Most of the growth is in technical training.
7. Average attendance at conferences on the human being and their place at work. Leaving town to learn about people is out of favor. We think there is nothing new to learn, it costs too much to travel and most of the content can be obtained electronically. The value of spending three days with people with common goals and common struggles has become a matter of sweet nostalgia.
8. The annual philanthropic donation rate among Microsoft and Silicon Valley new economy millionaires. This was recently reported at 2 percent. Two percent of what, I can't find out, but someone must know.
9. The volunteer rate of people over 50 who give time to their local public school and who have no children or grandchildren still in that school. This gives a measure of altruistic care for the next generation.
10. The number and sales of locally owned, non-chain businesses. Hardware stores, pharmacies, bookstores, food stores, restaurants give a unique, human face to a community. Without them, diversity takes a hit and the material world becomes a mall.
11. The number of hours of training that is migrating from daytime learning at work to nighttime learning at home. Off-hours, online learning is another measure of the invasion of the workplace into our home. It is sold under the veil of personal freedom and choice. Hmmm.
-- If you can imagine this, it could happen. These are just a beginning of measuring what constitutes a workplace designed for human habitation. If we develop this Human Value Index, the lead story in the nightly news might be:
--"The Human Value Index was down 2.7 points today which continues its counter cyclical movement in relation to the Dow Jones and NASDAQ. The HVI rose 9.3 points early in the day on news that Microsoft increased benefit coverage for full-time temporaries, and Dana Corporation committed to having a person answer 85 percent of their customer calls. In afternoon reporting, however, IBM announced it was contracting out the rest of human resources and completely eliminating its employee relations function.
--This was followed by news that attendance was down 40 percent for the Annual Conference on Soul and Business Ethics, which drove the Index down 11.4 points in late afternoon. Near the end of the session, however, the Index recovered slightly on news that employees at Ford were refusing to learn at home and were demanding compensatory time for answering e-mails after 6:00 p.m. The Index closed the day down only 2.7 points.
--I need your thoughts on the components for this Index. In fact, if you respond to this column, (email@example.com) I can offer you the opportunity to be an early-on-board insider in creating a high-leverage, new economy enterprise that would market and sell the Human Values Index trademark. Plans are on the computer screen which include a fast-paced, clue train style newsletter (working title is "The Bleak Street Journal"), a Web site, investor capital and IPO in early 2001. It could be an attractive dot-com venture. Of course we would have to work nights and weekends to get it going, keep a sharp eye on labor and benefit costs, open kiosks in major malls, high-tech automated customer delight center, find some 12 year olds to create the Web site....