As corporate functions go, HR has been the most unsettled when it comes to describing itself. Finance is finance. Marketing is marketing. And although, Human Resources left behind the ‘Personnel’ tag along with the metal filing cabinets a long time ago, the profession has never seemed entirely at ease with the names that replaced it.
Consider a few of the alternative HR names that have been adopted in a rebranding process designed to do what, exactly? Make HR sound more dynamic?
Human Resources departments are variously called (with help from Charles Coy at Cornerstone’s Rework):
- Human Capital Management
- People Operations (Popular title among tech firms such as Google and Uber)
- People Resource Centre
- Talent Management
- People @ (Facebook’s choice)
- Employee Experience (At Airbnb, HR roles responsible for employee health and happiness fall into this category)
- Employee Success (Salesforce use this title for traditional HR functions such as recruitment but also employ newer roles here such as analysts who collaborate with IT to build and manage internal HR apps)
- Partner (Human) Resources (Starbucks choice makes the ‘human’ element look interchangeable – with robots, perhaps?)
Another recent example of inventive HR names came to my attention last week when Xero, which produces online accounting software for small businesses, was named the Asia Pacific winner of Linkedin’s ‘Bring Your Employer Brand to Life’ award.
When their CEO, Rod Drury, spoke about the people at Xero being the big differentiator, he said: “With the help of the human resources team (which we appropriately refer to as PX or People Experience, rather than HR), we have specifically moulded a unique environment to work.”
So move over HR, enter PX! Two far sexier letters.
Head of People
Rebranding the HR function is a hot topic, particularly at the moment, as with the effects of new technology the role and responsibilities of HR are transforming before our eyes. Along with departmental name changes, job titles are moving away from the impersonal sounding Chief Human Resources Officer or Head of HR, to Chief People Officer or People Operations Manager or VP of People. Referring to employees as people rather than resources being one way to convince staff that they are valued and not simply gears in a machine and, that the Chief People Officer is there to advocate for them rather than simply ensure they obey the rules.
At social media management company, Buffer, they have taken this one step further, employing a Chief Happiness Officer, who while he or she may not carry the same gravitas in the C-suite as the CFO, at least is pretty clear about their responsibilities (although one wonders, how they cope with having an off-day).
Changes in HR names, job and departmental titles are an indication of how more and more companies are realising that highly engaged, highly productive people are crucial to their success. As a result, HR is becoming more central to business strategy. So, does it really matter what HR names itself as long as it brings skills and knowledge and behaviours to the job at hand and performs them professionally?
Lyn Goodear, CEO at the Australian HR Institute, says confidence in the ability to do one’s job comes with professional certification and recognition of those standards from outside the profession. AHRI’s certification strategy, she says, is about creating a reliable, evidence-based consensus in relation to what is required to deliver good HR into an organisation.
“HR Certification, and the CPHR and FCPHR post-nominals that represent the independent assessment as having met the global practice standards, will create a confidence among employers in relation to the standard of HR practice they can count on. And for HR practitioners – HR certification provides a reason to feel proud of their professional contribution and status as a valued business partner, regardless of the name of the department they work for!”
Consolidate your HR career by becoming a certified HR practitioner. Find the certification pathway that best suits your professional level by using the HR Certification Pathfinder.