If I referred to you as a ‘resource’ how would that make you feel? It doesn’t feel very personable or comfortable, does it? It may feel cold and unwelcoming. It suggests that you are merely a cog in the machine, a means of production, a number, an asset.
I have never known anyone to feel motivated or inspired by being referred to as a ‘resource’. Yet this is precisely the type of language many organisations continue to use to describe human beings. HR is an example of this, seeing people as ‘resources’, like headcount, as human capital.
What about if I referred to you personally by your name? How would you feel if I took a genuine interest in your life, your interests, your hopes, fears, anxieties, and your dreams? That feels warmer and more welcoming doesn’t it?
The language we use is important. It shapes our thinking and our actions. It feeds into our processes and helps create our workplace cultures. Treating people as resources, or numbers on a spreadsheet erodes the value of people as individuals.
The future of work will be characterised by a requirement to understand the unique human qualities that people bring to their workplaces. We need to look beyond the numbers, the metrics, the KPIs, the internal bureaucracy and understand that it is all about people and relationships. This means not treating people as one homogenous group but tailoring the experience and work for each person.
This a whole new level of connection and engagement at a deep human level. It means a whole different remit for HR. Perhaps HR as we know it will disappear? Instead of HR, maybe the role becomes one where whatever it takes, we provide the environment and culture for each human being to be their very best and play to their natural strengths.
What new name could we give HR to better reflect this purpose?
The days of people being considered as numbers or resources could be consigned to the history books. It sounds idealistic, but it’s a vision worth striving for.