Why Call It People versus Human Resources?

I’ve had the opportunity to create my own title and job function at the last 2 companies I’ve joined.  At both, I’ve opted to call myself the Head of People and my team the People Team.  We, as a function, are responsible for attracting and selecting candidates, and engaging, connecting, motivating, developing, coaching, retaining, evaluating, promoting, and transitioning employees.  These are the traditional stomping grounds of HR, yet I insist on calling us the People Team.  And I’ve had to and continue to correct a lot of employees who forget about that name change.

It may seem like a trivial and fussy distinction, but to me, it hits at the core of my ideals about people and our work-life. People can take on many roles in life:  mother, sister, military veteran, software developer, primary breadwinner, art lover, etc.  In coming to work, they aren’t just “human resources” charged with accomplishing a task; they are people who should be able to share their whole selves with their colleagues, and vice versa.  This leads to a much more diverse, interesting, and engaged community — one in which people feel welcome to be themselves and have a deep sense of belonging.  

Why does this matter?  It matters because — for many of us — work-life has become a core part of our overall lives.  We spend over half of our waking hours at work, and our identities are shaped by what we do and the work-community we belong to (ergo, our asking strangers within the first few minutes of meeting them, “What do you do for a living?”, “Where do you work?”).  Some of our best and lifelong friends come from work.  

Whether you are bemoaning, celebrating, or ambivalent about these developments, there is only upside for all employees in making the workplace a community where you feel accepted as an individual and where you have a role that you regard as valuable.  Companies that view people as people instead of simply “resources” will have more empathetic policies and practices that address people’s holistic needs, and invest in developing people for their lives and not just for the work they are doing for the company today.  

Of course, I’d be lying if I said that increased productivity or employee attraction/retention aren’t goals of creating this kind of community.  They are.  But they aren’t the primary or exclusive objectives.  There is innate goodness in a company that considers the full suite of needs for its people, and I’d rather be part of one that puts forth its best effort than one that views these efforts as an unnecessary burden to the HR function.

So that’s why I call it the People Team.  To remind ourselves every day that we are here to serve the people — the individuals with all of their many roles — who put their trust in us to build the best community and workplace we can.*

*Note:  Yes, having an extensive budget helps!

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