Over the last few decades, the function once almost exclusively known as Personnel has gradually rebranded itself as the Human Resources department. Theories abound as to the reasons why: anything from an increasing US influence to a desire to demonstrate a harder edge and move away from the ‘tea and tissues’ stereotype.
As we head further into the 21st century though, things are moving on again, and I would hypothesise that it will not be too much longer before the phrase ‘Human Resources’ seems as archaic as the thought of a ‘Personnel’ department.
All about People
Here at Benefex, we have recently rebranded as a department to be simply: People. Why? Well, for me there is great appeal in keeping things simple and being upfront about what our responsibility is within the business. We look after people. Outside of a business environment, I have never heard of any occasion where a person or group of people have been referred to as a ‘human resource’. I actually think we potentially create our own pitfalls as a profession where we do so. The phrase ‘human resources’ suggests a robotic commodity which is both predictable and impersonal. As we know, nothing could be further from the truth!
The human side of our roles
By renaming the department simply as ‘People’, we are acknowledging that, whilst still being a resource of the organisation, this is a resource which is quite unique in its attributes. A resource which, when handled correctly, has the potential to add more value to a business than any other; but a resource which must be carefully nurtured and developed in order to thrive. ‘People’ to me ensures that we encapsulate the very real and human side of our roles. It is often bemoaned that HR is required to be a counsellor, listening ear, guardian and therapist when we have neither time nor the specific skills required to carry out these roles. The reality is that these are all skills we must develop, in order to get the best out of our own, very human, resource.
And what about Employee Experience?
The latest trend coming in from the States is the rise of the ‘Employee Experience’ department, which was notably adapted by Airbnb back in 2015 and is gaining popularity within organisations both in the US and the UK. As its name suggests, the rebranding is designed to put fanatical focus on the experience of an employee as they journey through the organisation. If we do this, the argument goes, the achievement of our business objectives will surely follow. Given the clear relationship between a great employee experience and great employee engagement, it is hard to argue with this.
What’s in a name?
I have no doubt that we will continue to see ever zanier attempts at a rebranding of the department formally known as Personnel. So far as I’m concerned, if these help to make it clearer to both HR professionals and employees alike what the role of the function should be, then I am all for it. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what moniker we give ourselves. The important thing is not the name of the department, but the value it delivers. If we are providing a great environment, for great people to thrive in, and therefore delivering great results for the business… then we are getting it right, whatever name we happen to go by.