Hate is a very strong word that I rarely ever use. But in the context of this article, it seems quite appropriate. Before many of my friends in this function/profession take offence, let me clarify what I mean.
The traditional approach in organizations is to view the people function as the Human “Resources” department. So in a way, just as we say Financial Resources, Material Resources, etc., so it is with Human Resources! We may just brush that aside saying it is only semantics, but treating people as “resources” has a very cold touch to it. The words we use are powerful beyond measure – they cement attitudes, drive a certain kind of Theory-X thinking, and in all have a de-sensitizing effect when thinking about people working in an organization. When we clump the people working for us as “resources,” it fails to recognize and acknowledge that behind each of those “resources” is a living breathing individual with his or her own aspirations, challenges, hopes, and apprehensions.
The management thinker Ram Charan wrote an interesting and rather controversial article in the not too distant past suggesting that it is time to split HR. The basic argument was in questioning the value that most HR professionals bought to the business.
Without getting into that debate, the key point is that the best HR professionals that we have come across in our work have been professionals who have been clearly focused on Human Development (HD). The questions they engage with are largely on the lines of:
In an era of hire and fire, organizations that view their people as “resources” do not ask these questions. They view them as expendables that come at a cost. They hire in a rush and fire at the slightest sign of business tremors. In contrast, anecdotal stories of companies like Google, which hires slowly and never fires, sound heartening. Managers in Google do not have the power to fire employees for performance! The key thought is that if an employee has not performed, the leader/manager has perhaps not done enough to “develop” him. The thrust again being on “development.”
Is it time we rename our Human Resources (HR) function as the Human Development (HD) function, hereby clearly laying out the charter that their raison d’etre is to develop the people in the organization? Perhaps employees would also be more trusting of a department that explicitly has their best interests in mind, rather than one that terms them as “resources?”
We would love to hear from our HR friends on this one!