4

'Human Resource Management' - time the term changed!

As an HR professional I find the term 'human resource management' quite disturbing.

Yes, day in and day out I use it to describe the related department, the qualification I studied, the professional body to which I am affiliated, the workforce, my profile on LinkedIn, etc, but somewhere deep down inside, each time I hear or use the term it makes me think that the essence of what it entails is being undermined. I am filled with an inexplicable sense of guilt for not challenging it. To call human beings in all their wonder simply a 'resource' is demeaning and makes me picture the movie 'Ben Hur' and the hundreds of slaves in uniforms straining every sinew to keep the ship assail. Maybe I am taking things to the other extreme, but it gives me the feeling that human beings are being taken for a 'resource' that can simply be bought and sold at a price. Although this may to some extent be true in practical terms, and is to do with the laws of demand and supply and how the so called 'Labour market' (another term I am not too comfortable with) functions, the thought makes me very uncomfortable.  I find in it, a real sense of emotional and spiritual deficit.

True that every employee is paid a wage and benefits in exchange for the work they do, and yet there is so much more to humans who can never truly have all their effort, creativity, insights and passion finitely evaluated with numeric values imprinted against their profiles. The last I remember, human beings had spirits and emotions that deserve to be respected.  Talking of them as resources irks me.

I know this debate has been running for many years but little has changed, and with finance increasingly driving the agenda with various austerity measures some would say we are even going backwards.  So today I would like to propose something different, something fairer and perhaps ground-breaking for our profession. I would like to rename the term 'Human Resource Management' to a more sensitive 'Employee Management'. Everyone working for a company, including people in the HR department itself are employees. To use the term 'employee management' gives me a feeling of having a sudden gush of fresh air in my suffocating lungs. It seems to encapsulate what I have been trying to communicate to staff for a long time now - that we are here to help and support you in doing the best work of your lives. We are not here to cut your wages for no obvious reason, to be difficult, or discipline you without reason.

I appreciate in one way it is only a change in words, but deeper it is much more than that and a signal for something far more significant about the power and significance of our humanity.  So who knows, this may be the first tiny step in changing the hard, dry image of the Human Resource Department prevalent in most places. As they say, 'Well begun is half done'. :)
  • Hi Mishanka,


    I admire your passion, but to me I can see very little difference between employee management and personnel management, which was the accepted term before Human Resources became the norm.  Therefore I would actually see that as more of a backward step than a breath of fresh air.


    For me, using a term like Employee Management suggests that it is is the function of that department to manage the employees - it is not, employee management is the job of the line manager.


    Whereas Human Resources to my mind is a bit more accurate - we manage the resources of the business (which happen to be human rather than any other type of resource) to ensure that the right resource is in the right place, at the right time with the right skills etc. 


    I agree that Human Resources is not necessarily the nicest phrase, but I dont think that a change of name will change the image or perception of the function (I am not sure anything will - HR is inevitably involved in the "bad" activities, redundancies, discipline, etc and it is human nature that a negative perception sticks much more than a positive one.


    A rose by any other name...


     

  • Mishanka


    What Jeny said!!


    Personally I would rather be described as 'Human' than an 'Employee'.


    You state:


    True that every employee is paid a wage and benefits in exchange for the work they do, and yet there is so much more to humans who can never truly have all their effort, creativity, insights and passion finitely evaluated with numeric values imprinted against their profiles. The last I remember, human beings had spirits and emotions that deserve to be respected.  Talking of them as resources irks me.


    Are you not arguing here that Human is a better word than Employee?


    What about the 'Potential Employees' and 'Ex-Employees' that we have to resource manage?


    Being an employee is transient - being a human is a condition we all share from conception to death.


    And they are a resource as Jeny says - an organisation is made up of many resouces, financial, physical, intellectual property, technical and so on - we look after the Human bit. 

  • David Perry

    | 4614 Posts

    Chartered Member

    31 May, 2013 21:54

    Whilst I agree with your sentiments Mishanka, doesn't 'Employee Management' simply describe what every line manager does?

     

    DaveP 

  • Dear Jenny, Robert & David,

     

    First of all I would like to thank you for making time to read my post. 

    I would like to clarify that I am arguing against referring to 'humans' as 'resources'.  That is the primary motive of my writing this post. I am not for once suggesting that a change of name would change the perception of the department - that would be very naive thinking. However, every small step is one step further towards a destination and most importantly, the first step. Going further, one would need to do a lot of work to change prevalent underlying attitudes and cliches. This is my first attempt to voice how I feel about the term 'human resources' and I certainly do not believe and disagree that it should be left as it is. Even if it means taking a step backwards and going back to being more human; going backwards is not always a bad thing if done for the right reasons. Food for thought!

    The change of name is a proposal which is open for discussion and all suggestions are welcome. 

     :)

More Content