Let’s kill HR. We don’t need it. It is outdated. It is not up to for today’s challenges in the digital world. Indeed, unless we get rid of it, we could very well lead us all to a dead end. I doubt it that anyone would want this to happen. Ever. For it is not about HR, it is about us. ‘Us’ as in people, human beings. We don’t need HR. What we really need is to reclaim our humanity.

Taylor (1911): “The system must be first”

HR — or human resources — stems from an age shaped by the Tayloristic paradigm where the system is more important than humans. Granted, this worked for more than a decade and lay ground for a business revolution, management and engineering. Back in 1911, when The U.S. American Frederick Winslow Taylor explained that “in the past, man has been first. In future, the system must be first.” the working population was not as skilled as it is today. Back then technology was not as prevalent as it is today, the world was not as intertwined and interdependent, the world did not face global challenges such as climate change. This has changed.

In the Tayloristic business world it was and still is all about the firm. Yes, people are valued; but primarily only as input, as human resources, for the machinery of business. The focus is on making money for the firm and satisfying the expectations of shareholders.

The social market economy in Germany differs from this extreme somewhat and eases the pain. It aims to balance business and societal well-being. And yet it still is first and foremost about business and how people can contribute to it. Government and bureaucracy serve as regulatory powers securing internal and external security in the business world and society. Whether or not this form of a social market economy is up to for today’s challenges is up to the beholder. I do have doubts. For even in this “social” market economy we are still talking about HR, human resources.

The questions we need to ask today

Let’s face it. Digitalization is increasingly shaping our daily life. Some may even say that digitalization is taking over our life. This is scary. Because, what happens to us? What will the future look like?

While these questions are legitimate, they may direct us into the wrong direction. Yes, we need to pose the WTF question, “what’s the future?”. But what about rephrasing it and ask, “how do we want to live in the future?” This question entices us to do something about our future, to become active, to reclaim the driver’s seat and shape the future. Not the future of technology but our future. In other words, it is not about digitalization but about us as human beings.

I am not a human resource. I am a human being!

In this future I don’t want to be treated as a human resource. For if I were, I would have to compete with other resources such as technology. I am not sure that this would always be a fair game.

I am not a resource. I am a human being and especially in the digital world I want to reclaim my humanity and motivate others to do the same. It is not about optimizing resources. It is about reclaiming, rediscovering and living our human potential.

What happens to “HR”?

Of course, people working in “HR” functions matter and are valuable. And, of course, we will still need a lot of traditional “HR” services. But, not as resources. Hence, one of the first moves we need to do with “HR” is get rid of the term “HR” in our vocabulary. Let’s not longer talk about “HR” but people and culture, people engagement or people experience.

Fortunately, there is a growing number of companies that have been doing this already. The critic may explain that renaming a business function is only superficial, another form of “green washing”. Well, it could be. And yet it sends out a strong and positive signal. And this helps shift our focus to what matters most: us people.

Of course, people and culture, people engagement and experience are not limited to the teams formerly known as “HR”. Dropping the term “HR” and choosing a term which more accurately describes who these teams serve can make classical “HR” to ambassadors for a new, modern form of business we need in the digital age: Human business.

So, let’s kill HR and reclaim our humanity

But, let’s not just preach it, let’s walk our talk.  Let’s rediscover, reclaim and live our humanity for the benefit for our customers, peers, business and society.  In this world, there is no room for human “resources” but lots of creative space for human beings.