Why did ‘personnel’ become ‘HR’? BBC Radio 4 investigates

Wireless2014Why did the ‘personnel’ profession rebrand as ‘human resources’ (or HR)? Do HR and other business functions hide behind jargon? And has anyone really ever used the term ‘rightsizing’ when cutting jobs? These are among the topics explored in the latest edition of BBC Radio 4′s Word of Mouth programme, broadcast yesterday (Tuesday 14 January 2014).

UK HR professionals keen to know what BBC Radio 4 had to say about them can download the Office Jargon episode of Word of Mouth for the next 30 days (or click here to open a BBC player and listen to the episode).

Could ‘HR’ itself use another rebranding?
If you feel the term ‘HR’ might be getting a little long in tooth, perhaps it might be worth considering the next evolution in how we describe the profession. Here are links to two posts from the XpertHR archives, in which the HR community explored potential new names for HR:

  • Hoop creation: An apt term for HR?  Does the work of the HR profession ultimately boil down to “hoop creation” (the creation of hoops for employees, managers – indeed, the entire organisation – to jump through)? This question is raised by UK HR blogger Neil Morrison.
  • Downsizing envoy: An apt term for HR in 2012?  A research paper from ACAS has provided the world with a new term to describe at least one aspect of the work of many HR professionals: ‘downsizing envoy.’

If you’d like to propose a new name for the HR profession, or if you’d just like to sound off about office jargon, please do get in touch and have your say!

UPDATE 1 (Wednesday 15 January 2014): @workessence and @sukhpabial weigh in on the names we give to work-related…stuff!
It seems that the BBC’s Word of Mouth team are not the only ones to have been wrestling with issues around the issue of what we call things that have to do with employment. Two top UK HR bloggers have also published posts this week on related themes:

  • In a post entitled Desire Lines, Neil Usher looks at recently-coined terms such as “smart working,” “social business” and “agile workplace.” He asks: “When we invent sparkly new terms, mistakenly believing because we have named something we have described it…..do we by implication denigrate the opposite?”
  • And in Defining Learning and Development Sukh Pabial has a go at doing just that. What do you make of Sukh’s suggestion of a new name for L&D: “People Development”?

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