Get Rid Of Human Resources

Get Rid Of Human Resources 6811076048_fdc9278598_o
Get rid of Human Resources. Human Resources: what an ugly term!

Wikipedia defines resource as “a source or supply from which benefit is produced“. Is this how we think of employees—as resources for a company’s benefit?

I think it’s telling that many organizations still use this term to label the office that hires, manages, and fires employees. And such organizations, at least in the IT industry where I’ve had some experience of them, often don’t do a very good job.

Nowadays I’m noticing a trend in larger organizations to rebrand Human Resources as Talent Management. This is better—we’re not classifying people as resources like steel ingots. But the m-word—management—is still there, emphasizing the role of guidance on how employees work.

So here are a couple of alternative descriptions that I like better.

The first is Talent Leadership. As I’ve written here, I see leaders as influencers and facilitators of process rather than high-ups laying down the law. Organizations need both leaders and managers, but I think that forward thinking institutions should have their talent led rather than guided.

Want an alternative? Google calls its Human Resources Department People Operations; employees shorten this to POPS. I think this neutral term is a sensible reframe of what “HR” does in a modern organization; covering the nitty gritty work while avoiding any connotation of employees-as-cattle.

Words have power. Let’s use the best ones we can.

Photo attribution: Flickr user olathegovnews

4 thoughts on “Get Rid Of Human Resources

  1. I always thought the Human Resources Department was called such because the department itself is a source from which benefit (FOR employees/people) is produced. I never thought of it as defining humans as the resources it was producing but I can see how it could be interpreted this way.

    That being said, Talent Management is a great replacement name! That is after all what HR is seeking/managing/evaluating constantly. As always, great insights Adrian!

    1. That’s a good suggestion, Martin. “Personnel” is the traditional word that has been used for centuries, with its peak in the 1940’s – 1980’s <> , until “human resources” starting replacing it. And it doesn’t have the connotation of people as inventory.

      Given that an organization’s people are, IMO, the heart of an organization, I like “talent leadership” for its emphasis on the importance of people. And “people operations” also elevates the importance of people above “personnel”, with the latter’s cultural history beginning in Victorian times. But any of these three terms are better, I think, than “human resources”.

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