Question: Can you quantify the value of your workforce? Brookfield Asset Management and The Co-operators Group examine answers

An often-quoted cliché of business is that “people are our biggest asset”. Now, in a demonstration of “putting your money where your mouth is,” Canadian CFOs are examining the true value of their people and strategies to increase it.

Toronto, June 5, 2019 - An often-quoted cliché of business is that “people are our biggest asset”. Now, in a demonstration of “putting your money where your mouth is,” Canadian CFOs are examining the true value of their people and strategies to increase it.

As part of a project led by The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) and in partnership with CPA Canada, two prominent organizations studied different aspects of social and human capital. Brookfield Asset Management measured the value of its workforce, while The Co-operators Group assessed the financial implications of poor mental health to their business.

Brookfield Asset Management, a leading global asset manager with a focus on real estate, infrastructure, renewable power and private equity, measured the value of their human capital in order to increase the effectiveness in how they organize, develop and deploy their employee base. They found that the value of the human capital in their asset management business represents almost 60 per cent of their market capitalization, reinforcing the importance of their human capital as a competitive advantage. Further to this, the company found that the value of its approximately 1,700 asset management employees was approximately twice the value of their cost.

By undertaking the study, Brookfield has evaluated how to strengthen the links between departments and focus on retaining talent. However, Brookfield’s CFO, Brian Lawson, has a longer-term perspective when talking about the project, “The reality is that the ongoing discussion will be most important. A deeper understanding of the value of our human capital and the way each team impacts value creation will drive our success.”

In another landmark project, The Co-operators Group asked its finance team to look into the company’s approach to mental health in the workplace. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadians live with a mental illness, which affects their lives, their families and wider society. Forty-nine per cent of those affected will not seek professional help. In the workplace, their productivity levels can decrease by 47 per cent compared to a healthy baseline.

Taking the results of the study, the finance team used a business case to recommend and implement substantial improvements to mental health benefits for employees. The financial analysis forecasted an increased return on the investment they are putting into their workforce.

“As finance professionals, we know that we need to measure outputs and outcomes in order to improve the management of our business,” said Karen Higgins, CFO, The Co-operators Group. “Mental health is no different.”

Measuring the value of workforces is increasing in importance to organizations as they seek to support and retain good staff. Human capital valuation is also becoming significant when faced with technological change and competition between firms trying to attract a skilled workforce. 

The initiatives by Brookfield and The Co-operators Group, published today, are part of a project undertaken by a group of Canadian CFOs who are members of the Canadian Chapter of the A4S CFO Leadership Network. The project involved implementing the guidance from the A4S Essential Guide to Social and Human Capital Accounting into their own organizations and to share their experience.

“Traditional ways of capturing, tracking and reporting business performance focus mainly on financial and operational measures. They don’t allow organizations to proactively manage the social and human capital opportunities and risks they may be facing,” said Joy Thomas, CEO, CPA Canada. “This is because these factors are inherently more difficult to track consistently and may, in fact, be controversial to assess in financial terms.”

Overall, these efforts investigate the interactions between business, society and individuals, which are crucial to good decision making, yet rarely measured for their impact and value to organizations.

Jessica Fries, Executive Chair of A4S, said, “If people really are an organization’s most important asset, then putting numbers on the figures that matter and using those numbers to inform investment is key. We encourage other organizations to download the research and corresponding guidance to determine how they can take similar actions.

Further research is currently underway, with worked examples from Manulife, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to be released soon.

The worked examples are now available to download from the A4S website at: www.cpacanada.ca/a4scanadaprojects.

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The A4S CFO Leadership Network

The Network brings together a group of leading CFOs from large businesses seeking to embed the management of environmental and social issues into business processes and strategy. A4S has partnered with Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) to run the Canadian Chapter.

 

For more details on the CFO Leadership Network in Canada see: www.cpacanada.ca/a4s or www.accountingforsustainability.org/canada

 

About The Prince's Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S)

The Prince's Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) was established by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2004. Our aim is to make sustainable decision making business as usual.

We work with the finance and accounting community to:

  • Inspire finance leaders to adopt sustainable and resilient business models
  • Transform financial decision making to enable an integrated approach, reflective of the opportunities and risks posed by environmental and social issues
  • Scale up action across the global finance and accounting community

A4S has three global networks: the Chief Financial Officers Leadership Network, a group of CFOs from leading organizations seeking to transform finance and accounting; the Accounting Bodies Network, whose members comprise approximately two thirds of the world’s accountants; and, the Asset Owners Network, which brings together Pension Fund Chairs to integrate sustainability into investment. www.accountingforsustainability.org