Toby Flanderson from The Office may be the most recognized HR person ever. His main job was to recite rules and generally wreck everyone's fun. Agile

Does Human Resources Need A Name Change? Words matter. No one would want to replant their lawn if it were full of elf grass and not crab grass. So, this week Ryn tackles the topic of naming or labeling. Specifically what is known as the ‘human resources department’ or HR. What we call things is important because labels relate inside the human brain to a whole network of other things that drive opinions about those named and those doing the naming. Human Resources Name Change.

Toby Flanderson from The Office may be the most recognized HR person ever. His main job was to recite rules and generally wreck everyone's fun.

Toby Flanderson from The Office may be the most recognized HR person ever. His main job was to recite rules and generally wreck everyone’s fun.

People Not Resources

Ryn discusses why the word ‘resources’ is inappropriate for people in any role. Resources are things like water, electricity, and raw materials. Worse than being a resource is ‘human capital’ which was originally used to describe slaves. Instead, Ryn suggests that the people in HR be called things closer to what they actually do. For example, if the role of HR is to protect management, label them appropriately. Or if they are needed to recruit top talent, match salaries to attract and retain the best people, then they should be similarly labeled.

At the same time, HR people have some work to do on their own images, to match their desired perception versus what it really is. For example  employees who are in some kind of distress will often and wrongly believe that HR people are somehow there to be their advocates. But many HR people are really on the payroll to organize insurance forms, do the owner or managers bidding, and occasionally organize a party. Is it a gap in perception like this that explains the antipathy many feel for HR? Happily Ryn has an answer that will be satisfactory to all.

For those who want to be thought of as more than insurance form clerks, failed sales people, or school teachers who got tired of teaching and moved into HR, then a name change is a good place to start.


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