Investments in Human Capital

I helped run an academic conference hosted by the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies of Social Imagery a couple months ago, and in the process attended a lot of the sessions. One of them particularly intrigued me. The speaker explained his research into learning techniques and described how traditional classroom learning is not very effective because it defines ‘passing’ but does not reward improvement appropriately. The analogy he used was with sports. If a very unskilled baseball player has a .15 batting average and through work doubles that average, he is praised highly for that improvement and is considered a good player. But if a very underachieving student makes a 20% on an essay and then works hard and doubles that score, he is still failing and gets no praise. Think how much better your worst employees would be if they doubled their job performance. Would they be the best employees in your organization? Maybe not, but I bet they’d become very good employees. This speaker at the conference advocated achieving this improvement by rewarding progress, instead of just for reaching a particular goal.