A friend dropped by the other day. Let’s call him Bob. Bob was wondering what I was up to, and I told him I was preparing for a course in HRM (human resource management), which I’m teaching this semester. And his reaction was, “HRM?!” And I said, “Human resource management, you should know that! (Bob is a corporate executive in a company which most certainly has an HR department so he definitely knows what HRM is.)” And he said, “No no, what I meant was why on Earth are you teaching HRM of all things??” And I said, “Well, they needed someone to teach the course just like last fall when I taught the organizational behavior course.” And his response was, “Well yes, organizational behavior is interesting, but human resource management, really? Why would you want to teach that?”
Well, I don’t know if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, but I’m thinking that this really says a lot about HRM! Or at least about how people see HRM. I mean here we have a corporate executive who I would guess has been in the work force for about 20 years or so, and in a managerial position for at least half that time. Granted, not in human resources, but he has most certainly known and worked with his fair share of HR managers, and yet his reaction is what it is. Not very positive I may add, in case you didn’t get it. And I assure you; Bob isn’t alone.
In my experience, HR departments are among the most misunderstood and least appreciated departments in the history of the organization. And that must certainly take its toll. They are a support function and not a part of the core business, and therefore not considered as strategic as other departments and functions. At the same time, employees are often considered to be a company’s most important resource. Ironic isn’t it, because that sounds pretty strategic to me. And HR departments are important. However, it seems their greatest challenge is the associations the letter combination ‘HR’ triggers in people like Bob.
This is often the biggest problem when trying to create change. The language we use to talk about things, effectively keeps us locked in our old ways. Our words mean something specific to us, which makes it very difficult so see things differently. We need to create new words in order to really be able to change the way we think, or in this case see something in a new light. And let’s face it; HR professionals really need a new word.
So I suggest we scrap the term human resources. If you think about it, it is actually rather production oriented anyway, and doesn’t really embrace individuality or diversity. Nor does it recognize employees as the people they are with their individual wants and needs, which is what we’re trying to do more of, right? We need something new to call HR professionals, so that they can do what it is that they are trained to do. So let’s do that, let’s reinvent HR! Let’s create a new word that doesn’t make people go, ‘yes, but why?!’ like Bob did.