What’s in a name?


What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I read an article this week. You may have seen it. It suggested that HR was kind of pointless in many organisations. It doesn’t add any value. You know the type of article. They come around, fairly often.

There was one thing however in the article said that I did agree with. It criticised the name ‘human resources’. Said that we need to change it, that it suggests all the wrong things. I will admit too, that I’ve never liked it. I don’t like it because of the implication that it has, to me, that resources are all that people are. Factors of production. Inputs, outputs, objects, materials, property. It doesn’t feel like it shows who we are, what we do, where we play.

Once upon a time we were the welfare department. Next we were personnel. Then we were renamed, rebranded. We were Human Resources. Each name has its own connotations, undertones, associations. Human Resources was just that bit more serious, business like, a little less fluffy. It might even sound, strategic.

Lately I’ve seen alternatives to HR. People Departments with Chief People Officers. That just sounds like new wine in old bottles to me.


Here’s the thing. It’s not what you call yourself, it’s what you do that matters. What you deliver, influence, change. Who you are and what you stand for.

I once worked for a man that advocated removing job titles. Allowing employees to call themselves anything they wanted. I often said that I was therefore going to call myself the Chief High Poobah of HR. It’s got a good sound to it, don’t you think? But even if I did, I’d be doing the same things today, tomorrow. Just trying to do good people stuff, with professionalism and integrity.

I’d have some awesome business cards though.