Along with human resources, its nomenclature is undergoing transformation too.
It is not the first time that the human resources (HR) department is going through a change. Earlier, when the focus was more on industrial relations, the officer-in-charge was called a personnel manager. Since then, the function has grown to become more wholesome with the manager taking on additional responsibilities, such as recruitment, increment, welfare and other admin work. As a result, the personnel officer was buried to give birth to the human resources manager.
Time and tide leave nothing unchanged, and so is the case with HR. Even India Inc. is moving away from calling its human resource managers CHROs, director-HR, HR manager, and so on.
What has gone wrong with HR?
Biplob Banerjee, chief people officer, Allied Blenders and Distillers, says “Having ‘people’ in the designation clearly defines the parameters of the function and its roles and responsibilities. To my mind, the word inspires connection with employees at all levels.”
Organisations are increasingly using the designation ‘chief people officer’. The psychology behind this is that they want to give a loud and clear message to the entire organisation that this is one department which works for all its ‘people’.
“Having ‘people’ in the designation clearly defines the parameters of the function and its roles and responsibilities. To my mind, the word inspires connection with employees at all levels”
Saba Adil, chief people and operating officer, Aegon Life Insurance says, “We decided to incorporate ‘people’ in the designation as it helps to connect with the employees. Moreover, our focus is to empower people, support them in their careers and help them grow.”
Adil’s role and responsibility extend beyond the HR function. As people and operating officer, she is also responsible for customer service.
“Employees can easily reach out, share their issues, and discuss confidential matters in full faith and sanctity. Therefore, any other name— human resource or happiness officer— may, perhaps, deviate from the main purpose of the function,” says Banerjee.
The human resource fraternity is becoming very sensitive about not calling employees as resources. They are ‘people’ and should be regarded so, nothing else.
Banerjee says, “The word ‘resource’ is the reason for this change. Typically, resource is used for non-human force or energy. We have had many seminars and discussions on this matter and now can conclusively say that many are passing a motion against the use of ‘resource’ with ‘human’ to describe this function.”
“We decided to incorporate ‘people’ in the designation as it helps to connect with the employees. Moreover, our focus is to empower people, support them in their careers and help them grow”
Today, the trend can be attributed to a few companies, which think and act differently, but it is definitely creating a magnanimous wave of change. The rapidly growing start-up culture has also contributed to the burial of the HR officer.
The start-up culture that promotes agility of action has created yet another new designation called ‘people operations manager’.
Apparently, a people operation manager takes on the role and responsibility of the erstwhile HR department, in addition to playing an active part in business operations.
Along with ‘people officer’, ‘people operation officer’ or ‘people ops’ is gaining popularity.
Sameera Khan, people operations lead, inFeedo, says, “HR is mostly looked at as dealing with compliance and execution, whereas a people team is more holistic, progressive, and very involved in the business and planning.”
The point of truth is that Khan’s designation is ‘people operations lead’, but her role and responsibility are to strive to make inFeedo a high learning environment, with training and mentorship, exactly what HR does! Her team works towards making talent acquisition a smooth experience, right from applying to onboarding an individual to a team.
The HR function is on an expansion mode, becoming more holistic and very strategic to business, with people as its fulcrum. It is only a matter of time before the designation gets a new name, which will do justice to its unconditional desire to connect with people.