We have passed through so many name changes over the years: welfare,
personnel, human resources. Now we are seeing the emergence of the ‘People
Why do we constantly feel the need to try and re-invent ourselves? Are we so
insecure about what we have delivered to the business that we need to
continually ditch our old name to forget the past?
In doing so, we seem to forget our customers. What do they want? Let’s face
it: Line managers and staff expect a just-in-time service, when they want it, when
they need it. They don’t really want to know about our ever-changing,
overloaded initiative agenda, or want to be plastered with the latest piece of
HR theory. They just want a service, and I have a sneaky feeling that we are
So what exactly am I ranting on about?
I’ve started to notice a new trend in job titles for the heads of the HR
function, and to be absolutely honest, I am baffled by them. ‘People director’
seems to becoming a popular term. What message does that give to our business
colleagues, who we’ve been busy trying to convince for the past seven years
that we are no longer the personnel and welfare department?
We no longer provide tea, toast and toilets. We have moved from serving at
dining tables to serving at the board table. We have become strategic players –
specialists in organisation design, performance management, culture and
behavioural change, senior level coaching, employee brand management and human
How can we be a ‘people director’? Do we really believe the HR function has
sole responsibility for directing the people of the business? Surely not, when
we’ve had so much success convincing line managers that they should take an
active and personal responsibility for managing, developing, disciplining,
motivating and rewarding their own people.
We are many things, but we are not ‘people directors’, and we would gain
greater respect if we provided a little more consistency to those we serve.
Don’t get me wrong, we should continually be driving the agenda for change,
continuous improvement, measurement and external benchmarking.
Our customers expect a great service they can tap into when they want it.
Why complicate matters by changing our title yet again? After all, we’ve only
just got over the ‘Human Refuse’ banner, and good riddance to that.
By Alan Bailey, head of business process outsourcing Xchanging