I hate the word ‘headcount’



It’s an awful word, isn’t it? And it is always used to describe employees and the people who work in an organisation.

However, bad as it is, it doesn’t beat FTE (Full Time Equivalent) or the real baddie ‘Human Capital’. Thrown in ‘labour’ and you get the idea. Jargon and weasel words from managers who should know better.


This is people we are talking about. Your employees. The people who are there to get, keep and support your customers. And customers are also people too in case you hadn’t noticed.

Why do organisations use these weasel words to describe people?

The short answer is simple. They are seen as a cost. A single element within an organisation. It is better to see them as numbers rather than humans. There are plenty of CEOs and managers who see their people as a significant cost and overhead to their organisation. They just look at the numbers, pay and benefits, taxes and the cost of employing people. People are part of that accounting exercise.

It’s fairly obvious that how you describe your employees has a huge impact on your internal communications and employee engagement. Now, there are many surveys and reports that shows organisations with stronger employee engagement make more money, increase sales and reduces recruitment costs.

According to research from Towers Perrin, companies with engaged workers have 6% higher net profit margins. Another research company, Kenexa, showed that engaged companies have five times higher shareholder returns over five years. Not bad, not bad at all.

This what you can do for your people.

  • keep them informed
  • let them have a voice
  • get them involved in all that you do
  • give them the right tools to do a better job
  • allow them to collaborate and work together
  • show them how important their work is for the organisation and its customers

And finally, treat employees as people not as headcount, FTE, human capital or labour. You might be surprised how effective it is.

This post first appeared on LinkedIn. Photo from New Old Stock: http://nos.twnsnd.co/