“A high value on human resources” = “a high value on human beings” (Insight from Barry Schwartz)


"Human" ResourcesWe lead by being human. We do not lead by being corporate, professional, or institutional.
(Paul G. Hawken, founder, Smith and Hawken)
Quoted by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner, Encouraging the Heart

———————

I’m a fan of using words correctly. I don’t always do it; I sometimes make mistakes. But I think I should always strive to use words correctly – the right word, for the right message…

I suspect I learned this especially from my graduate school days, in the writings of Kenneth Burke. Or maybe from my preaching days, and my intent to be true to the meaning of the Text I was preaching.

And, so, one of my complaints is the way we think it is better to abbreviate, or turn into acrostics, words and phrases that we need to linger over.

Take “Human Resources” for instance. Here are two definitons, both quickly lifted from the web:

Human Resources
the personnel of a business or organization, especially when regarded as a significant asset.

and/or

Human Resources
The company department charged with finding, screening, recruiting and training job applicants, as well as administering employee-benefit programs.

I like the first one much better, for the simple reason that it includes this phrase: “especially when regarded as a significant asset.”

After all, Human Resources should be all about resources that are human; i.e., unique to humans, and only available, only found, in real, live human beings.

So, when we reduce “Human Resources” to “HR,” and we don’t say the phrase with the honor it deserves and beckons forth, one flowing from this kind of sentiment — “we cherish our human resources more, much more, than any other resources in this company” – then “HR” loses it meaning. At least, that’s my view.

I thought of this as I read Rethinking Work by Barry Schwartz in the New York Times. Consider this sentence:

companies that placed a high value on human resources were almost 20 percent more likely to survive for at least five years than those that did not.

“A high value on human resources.” That is another way of saying “a high value on human beings.”

Such a view, and approach, and “culture,” strikes me as a good thing in and of itself (first), and a good business strategy (second).

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