Human Resources and Buzzwords

May be the Software industry but other than this, I don’t know of any profession that keeps on evolving like the field of Human Resources. In an attempt to keep up with the development and changes of the workplace, HR has reacted by churning out different approaches to managing people at work which in the process has led to the emergence of new terminologies.

Let us take a look at the concept of Human Resource Management (HRM) in itself. Without any intention to rekindle old debate, there is only a thin line of distinction between Personnel and Human Resource Management. HRM is said to be more people integrating than Personnel Management which adopts a management-led approach. While the debate on name-change had hardly died down, the issue of HRM as being strategic was further introduced.

Every organisation which is worth its salt has a set of goals and objectives. The realisation of these goals is dependent on the strategy put in place by the management. It is important that policies and processes emanating from the HR department are aligned with organisational strategy. From this, the concept of strategic HR was derived. However, being strategic cannot be limited to HR as other departments within an organisation will also develop similar strategic approaches in their activities.

A company which sells PlayStation and other video games will target young adults rather than the elderly to market its products. In this instance, what the marketing department has just done is strategic marketing. And of course, HR will need to employ people in similar age bracket to market these products at numerous youth events. The ‘strategic’ pre-fix is consequently not limited to the HR profession.

Talking about employing people, it is now a fad to see organisations branding themselves as ‘equal opportunity employer’. This could be attributed to the need to attract talents irrespective of social barriers like race, ethnicity, class, age and other forms of social classifications. Having a pool of skilled employees from different geographical backgrounds has been argued to be good for business. In workplaces however, the ‘equal opportunity employer’ tag has not achieved a great deal of success as there exists subtle forms of discriminations. More importantly, the label is just a mere way of conforming to employment regulations and a means to avoiding litigations and sanctions.

Still on labels, there are also what is called learning organisations. This is just a harder way of saying companies give emphasis to learning and development of their employees with a view of meeting the increasing change of customers’ needs. If there is no gainsaying the importance of learning in any organisation, then a distinction should not be made as which is a learning one and which is not. However, it can be argued that the structure and processes of an organisation are distinguishing factors. Even at that, the concept of a learning organisation is still very much open to debates.

The buzzwords I have provided above are just a few in the HR compendium and I am not under illusion to relay all of them (It’s even not possible) in this blog post. It is just to re-awaken our consciousness to the meaning of these words and evaluate if they have impacted the practice of HR as intended when they were coined.

Bashir Mudi Baba can be reached on Twitter via @El_De_Bash

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