What is HR?
What is HR? Good question. And today, I’m answering that for you. Firstly, we are going to look at the pure wording. Secondly at the history of HR. Thirdly and finally we are going to look at what HR do and what it is. Sounds good? Let’s go!
But what is HR? Back in the days before COVID-19 hit us, when you were actually allowed to go to dinner parties.
When I told people that I’m in HR, they smiled, nodded gently, and said, but what is it that you actually do them? And it’s a valid question.
If you look up the word HR, it stands for human resources, but I guess you figured that out already since you’re here. Let’s dive in a bit deeper and look at what HR is and; to correctly answer that question, you have to go back in history and see where HR comes from? And some people, when they do this, when they go back in history with HR, they travel all the way back to the Romans, but I think that’s pushing it a bit too far because if you look at what the Romans did if they wanted a stone lifted, for example, they had slaves. So that’s really not the same, so I wouldn’t go as far as saying, okay, maybe we should compare HR to Romans; that’s actually a bad idea.
So if we start at sites that are done and look into the more modern ways of how HR came to be, we would start with the industrial revolution. And the reason why I’m traveling back in time now is that I think to know what HR is, you need to go back in time and see how did it evolve?
The history of HR.
What caused the HR profession’s uprising, then you can adequately answer what HR is? When people started working in factories, when we came in from the countryside into the cities, factory owners began then asking; how can we increase production? As a result, people started looking into this. But it wasn’t until the 20th century when a guy named Frederick Taylor came along.
Taylor thought that there needs to be some kind of method where we can increase productivity. So what if I break down if I take a scientific approach to this and break down the tasks that each worker’s doing and look at each step they’re performing.
Could that improve efficiency? Sure enough, he invented something called scientific management or which is also called Taylor is more; you break down each task in a factory or in whatever you’re doing and look at how I can improve each step of this process?
Most famous that this is what’s done by Henry Ford. When he built the T4, the whole production line that we are so accustomed to today,
Taylor’s contribution was to look at this more scientifically.
Others followed during the decades that follow. And I think it’s important to mention one of them, Elton Mayo, who in 1924 research, what was causing turnover in a textile mill and with Mayo did compare Taylor was that Mayo looks at the individual versus where Taylor looked at only the process. Maybe not only, but may look more to the individual cell, causing the individual to not perform or perform.
So what Taylor focused more on a process like that we have other processes plays, may focus more on the individual.
Both have obviously influenced that HR greatly. We see the concept of both of them present in our workplaces today well; the HR field also emerged when they were more focused on the worker. People started to unionize. They were labor laws created in almost all Western countries at this time. And if you look back, it’s for natural reasons; the industrial revolution has been going on for a while. And now, in the early 20th century, people are starting to look on, okay, is this not the new reality? We need to find our way in this new reality, and how are we going to do that?
Both workers, but also obviously the employer side of things, hence HR emerges. So if you look back, the common denominator both then and now is that it has to do with people and organization. That’s the red thread that runs through HR. The hundred years that we’ve been around because you also have to remember.
We have only been around for roughly a hundred years. It’s quite a new profession.
So what is HR?
It’s people and organization. And I could stop here. The only problem is that people are an organization is such a vast concept.
It’s a bit more complicated than that because if you talk to a different organization, you will get a different answer on what is people in the organization. One of the main complicated factors is that if you look at what a CEO and the managers in a company, what do they do? They take care of the people, and they take care of the organization.
This leaves us still with a question;
What does HR do?
My old boss, Alexander, shouts out to him, by the way, great HR manager. He said that HR is like being a football coach is on the sidelines, having an overview of the field with all the players and the players, in this case, being managers and helping them perform in the best possible way, both on the field, but also off the field, and helping them push this organization towards the end goal of the business.
And that analogy resonates with me because that’s also how I see HR. We are helping organizations and thus the people in organizations. Evolving and growing and developing themselves. And we, too, obviously don’t bring in new players to the team, and we also help to exit players who no longer fit the team.
But the important part is that we don’t do that ourselves. We are not actively playing. We’re just on the sidelines, helping others to play and others, in this case, being managers, helping them to be better, to make better decisions and more long-term decisions that seemed to help the organization getting better.
So what is HR? So if you boil it down and simplify it as much as you can, HR is a catalyst and a facilitator for organizations to help them achieve their best possible end state.
If you’re in the private sector, that could be acquiring new businesses growing 10 X a year. And if you’re in the nonprofit sector, which could be extending help to millions of people worldwide, what we do as a function is that we help those organizations perform at their peak. So they have it. That’s HR.