Speaking at the CIPD HR Analytics Conference in London yesterday, Anthony Hesketh, associate professor at Lancaster University, said business is entering a new age, where companies will have to be able to show what they are doing with their people, not just use financial metrics to demonstrate their worth.
Hesketh said "assets" had long been a goal for companies, but finance departments struggled to agree what that meant in real terms.
"I was in a meeting of accountants where they took a long time to come up with a definition for 'assets'. In the end they decided it meant resources," he said. "If you put human in front of that, it becomes exciting."
CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese also spoke at the event. Talking about CIPD initiative Valuing Your Talent, which aims to create a framework for measuring and valuing human capital, he said companies were in desperate need of data to evaluate what drives the culture.
He was keen to differentiate the project from the 2003 Kingsmill Accounting For People report, which was widely criticised. "That project didn't have a problem to solve and people in that climate didn't understand the need for it. Now there is a clear problem to solve. The future of business, values and leadership is at the forefront of everyone's thinking," he said.
Cheese said he wanted to create a new norm in business where HR was not seen as separate to the rest of an organisation. He added the CIPD has been working closely with finance companies to share learning.
"Finance is looking to understand their data just as we are," he said. "We are sharing our HR learning courses with them and our people are taking some of theirs. They are looking to understand their people better and we can help."
The Valuing Your Talent report is due for release in June 2014. From this week you can contribute to the debate on the project via a 'hackathon' on the CIPD website.