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Why 2024 should be the year we stop saying ‘Human Resources’  

By Katie Jacobs

For all the value it delivers to organisations, is there a more poorly named function than HR? In an era where people crave more than ever to be seen and treated as individuals, to describe them as merely ‘Resources’, working to maximise the fortunes of the company, can leave a bad taste.

Many leaders in the space already feel this way and have chosen to rename their function ‘People’ and themselves ‘Chief People Officers’. But whatever the profession chooses to call itself, what’s most important is that the humanity inherent in everything it delivers comes to the fore. In 2024, a key objective for HR or people leaders must be creating a more human working experience. HR must be the champions of human experience.

There are so many reasons why this matters. Here’s just a few for starters…

  • The need to help people navigate through an increasingly complex and confusing world
    With political instability and polarisation, an ongoing cost-of-living crisis and fast-paced technological change to contend with, work can provide a sense of stability and community in an uncertain world. With many struggling with their mental health, creating cultures of wellbeing is non-negotiable in helping both organisations and individuals to thrive.

  • Keeping humanity at the centre of digital transformation
    New technologies are already having a profound impact on how we live and work. To ensure the power of these more emerging tools (and we must remember that is all they are) is harnessed positively, people leaders must keep the ‘human’ on the agenda.

  • Empowering people to thrive through change
    Organisations need to increase change-readiness and appetite through a more fluid approach to skills and talent. Achieving that also means taking a more human approach, empathising with people’s concerns about change while focusing on their unique strengths and motivators to enable them to keep learning, growing and innovating. It requires creating psychologically safe cultures of inclusion where everyone is empowered to show up authentically as their best self.

  • Culture taking centre stage
    In the UK, US and Europe, businesses are increasingly expected by regulators to report externally on their culture. This requirement is only going to increase, with reporting on sustainability becoming ever more important. That makes culture a material concern to leaders, boards and investors, putting the people function firmly in the spotlight.

So, how do we do it? Bringing humanity to work requires one thing above all others: leaders who role model a more human way of working, showing up with authenticity (including being vulnerable), visibly valuing the power of relationships and behaving inclusively and with integrity. This human leadership focuses on enabling and empowering human beings to build more resilient, purpose-driven and deeply-connected organisations. With the challenges we face in 2024, it is the only sustainable way to lead.

Alongside leadership capability and philosophy, humanising the world of work also requires deep thinking about our people or HR processes. We need these processes for consistency, but must never forget that what matters most are the principles with which they are approached and applied. People teams should consider whether all their processes, from onboarding to talent management, performance conversations to recruitment, are designed with human experience at their heart.

This doesn’t mean forgoing technology entirely, but rather keeping the principles of inclusion and wellbeing front and centre and remembering that people at work want to be treated like human beings, not human resources. It also means taking a ‘systems thinking’ approach to people experience, viewing HR processes as interwoven rather than standalone ‘interventions’. This year, Bailey & French will be doing more than ever to support organisations in humanising their people processes and strategies.

The year ahead is likely to be filled with challenges. Taking a more human approach is what will help leaders grab the opportunities available. Small changes in how we show up as leaders can make a big difference in humanising the world of work, creating thriving organisations that are good for both people and the planet. So, make 2024 your year of making work more human, less resources.

Contact Bailey & French today to find out how we can help your people strategy this year.