Seth Godin recently wrote about Human Resources, saying:
in days of yore, factories consisted of people and machines. The goal was to use more machines, fewer people, and to design processes so that the people were interchangeable, low cost and easily replaced. The more leverage the factory-owner had, the better. Hence Personnel or the even more cruel term: HR. It views people as a natural resource, like lumber.
Which is true, modern management traces its routes back to the factories of the industrial era. In those days the leading management thinkers were the likes of Fredrick Winslow Taylor (the father of Scientific Management), Henri Fayol and Max Weber and all of them viewed workers as an interchangeable resource.
Godin goes on to say:
Like it or not, in most organizations HR has grown up with a forms/clerical/factory focus. Which was fine, I guess, unless your goal was to do something amazing, something that had nothing to do with a factory, something that required amazing programmers, remarkable marketers or insanely talented strategy people.
Which unfortunately is also true, far too many organisations still work that way. However management theory has moved on since then, we’ve had the human relations model (popular during the 1920s to 1950s) which evolved from the experiments carried out at the Hawthrone Works. During this time a number of new theories on motivating employees were developed.
Beyond that there exists a wide body of literature on the modern concept of Human Resource Management (HRM).
Godin’s suggestion is that we:
Change the department name to Talent.
Which is a great sound bite, but I can’t help thinking that perhaps the answer in this case is to recruit a manager that understands the importance of the “human resources” in your business, perhaps even a manager that has an MBA with a specialism in HRM. Chances are they’ll have something valuable to add and it’ll be more than just a quick rebranding of the role. I expect the likes of Microsoft and Google already do.Email This Post