what is a less-awful term for human resources

So a now-ex worker-owner at Agaric (actually he’s wonderful but i like that introduction in this context) created a folder called “human resources” in our shared file storage. So i had to come up with something else to call it. Wasted like an hour.

This fine article comes up:


…but it does not suggest an alternative term!

The book “Injury Impoverished: Workplace Accidents, Capitalism, and Law in the Progressive Era”, by Nate Holdren, has a passage on page 128 quoting the last written words of Samuel Howard, a miner trapped in a mine, writing in his diary: “9:15 a.m Monday morning. Still breathing. Something better turn up soon or we will soon be gone. 11:15 a.m. Still alive at this time.” Following this, Holdren writes:

Unrecorded but no less horrible events took place in the final moments of so many other miners. … The point is to draw out the singularity, the human reality: harms are done to individual persons with lives, senses, feelings, hopes, frustrations, people as complex and important as anyone else but treated in our society as simplified and as insignificant, as mere objects. To add further insult to insulting injury, that simplification and consignment to insignificance is itself widely denied, as in the widespread acceptance of the term “human resources.”

Wikipedia says it used to be called “personnel administration”.

But that term itself came about apparently just in 1900 and for dealing with workers striking and the business locking them out— so pretty explicitly the “good cop” side of preventing worker control over their work, or even much power on the job. But personnel administration, despite sounding less horrible than human resources management, is still very much a cop.

A website called ProProfs Discuss has someone ask “What was human resource called before?” and someone give a partially inaccurate answer (the book cited didn’t use “human resources” in the sense of an HR department) while guessing companies didn’t have any such department, and concluding “maybe HR was just called the employment department”. The original poster said “Manpower” and “there is a CRITICISM that resource is a COMMODITY”.

Wikipedia also cites this in “criticism of the terminology” of human resources:

The General Conference of the International Labour Organization, meeting in its Twenty-sixth Session in Philadelphia, hereby adopts, this tenth day of May in the year nineteen hundred and forty-four, the present Declaration of the aims and purposes of the International Labour Organization and of the principles which should inspire the policy of its Members.

The Conference reaffirms the fundamental principles on which the Organization is based and, in particular, that:

(a) labour is not a commodity;
(b) freedom of expression and of association are essential to sustained progress;
(c) poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere;
(d) the war against want requires to be carried on with unrelenting vigour within each nation, and by continuous and concerted international effort in which the representatives of workers and employers, enjoying equal status with those of governments, join with them in free discussion and democratic decision with a view to the promotion of the common welfare.

And a lot of companies are going back to “personnel”, according to.. Personnel Today, but i honestly don’t think they’re biased.

Bishop James in the comments to that article suggests “Personnel Support department”.

Groucho_Lenin commented:

I prefer the designation “Hiring and Employee Services.” It eliminates the control freaks the field usually attracts, takes “HR” down to a proper level and charges its staff with service to the company and specifically to the employees. It’s a term I invented. Send me a few quid every time you use it. Thanks in advance.

Implicit in another comment is the idea that “Staff Protection” may be a good name. I think Staff Support would be cool!

I gave up on the rest of the world. I looked up the Drutopia governance operations set of nested functional groups I doodled, inspired by sociocracy. I had a circle titled Paid worker care (distinguished from volunteer care), and that’s the term i’m going to suggest at Agaric.

Or since we don’t need the distinction, just “Worker care”.