Hands up if you like being a human capital asset, nay, a human resource …

…that’s what I asked a group of HR Directors a few years ago at a breakfast seminar. No hands went up. I was not surprised. HR Directors are human too. They, like the rest of us, struggle with the inadequacies of business jargon. Few would disagree that companies don’t own people, so they shouldn’t call them assets, let alone capital assets. Of course humans are, technically, recources to the organisation, but not in the way machines are. No self respecting person should respond, at least civilly, to anyone who addressed them as a human resource. But does the language matter? It does because it exposes the fudge to which the HR function has become victim. The CEO is in fact accountable and responsible for creating an environment in which people thrive. Many CEOs are not up to this task. They have pawned it off on HR, lumbering it with accountability but not full control. The time has come to repatriate responsibility for people to the CEO where it belongs. The best HRDs should, as Chiefs of Staff, support the CEO in this task. Transactional HR – contracts, health and safety, etc. – should be transferred to Legal or Accounting. Unless and until this happens, HR will remain the Cinderella of the ExCO allowing the CEO to duck the hard task of leading, managing and motivating people.


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