Why we need to stop calling it HR

In the last year we have realised the need for resilience alongside performance, so why is our perceived value still based on how hard we are working?

We come from decades of being conditioned to be ‘resources’ rather than people. Resources are exploited, rung out, we try to eke out as much value of a resource as we can so it's fully exploited. But even with the most abundant resource, you can’t just keep drawing from it endlessly. 

Rethinking the HR profession:

HR isn’t the enemy

Tackling HR’s image problem

Coronavirus response gives opportunity for HR to become heroes

I like to use fitness metaphors to help people think differently. For example, when we want to get stronger we can lift weights, but if we keep on going, at some point we’ll just drop that weight, fatigue and burnout. 

If I want my body to be strong and healthy I need to vary my routine: lifting, but with different frequency, intensity and load. We also need stretching, working the ligaments that support the muscle and resting. The same applies for working people who want to make an impact in our roles. 

Adding extra projects and working harder might trick your people into feeling like they are doing a great job, but they will eventually feel expendable and depleted, just like any other ‘resource’.

In organisations, we want to build power and strength. But this can only happen if we ditch the resource mindset (and HR as a name) and switch to seeing people’s potential. 

Some pioneering teams and organisations have changed to ‘people team’ or ‘people experience team’. We need more of that as we move into the hybrid world. We need new strengths, new power, new potential to get to the best performance for the organisation as a whole.

Here are five practical strategies to help us build our people power, the muscle in our organisations:

Change language

Instead of “it's your job to do this” or “well done for working hard”, you can switch to “does this reflect what your role is about?” or  “how productive are you and how do you feel about it?”

Change the conversation to help shift mindsets and behaviours, so that they can focus on what they can contribute and how empowered they can be to do exactly that.


Play to strengths

Over the last year we've come through a whole lot, and people have adapted differently. Have open conversations to help people identify strengths, build trust, cohesion and new ways of working that really complement the team, so that output can be more purposeful to the future world. 


Ask for people’s opinions

We, as leaders, don't have to have all the answers and all the ideas. In fact, if we can empower our people to contribute their ideas, they will feel a stronger sense of ownership to build towards a new output, to build new strength. This will truly empower our people to fulfil their potential.


Switch between manager and coach

It’s easy to autopilot on roles and tell people what to do. Instead, we need to be able to switch from being the instruction-giving manager all the time to holding the space for a coaching approach when it’s needed.

It’s more impactful to switch to asking “What do you think? What could be possible here? What would you like to try to help us solve this problem?”


Facilitate reflection

We've learned and achieved a lot in the last year, even if it doesn't always feel that way. On our team, we do reflections every Friday on achievements, learnings and what we want to do next. 

You can call it ‘personal victories’,’bright spots’ - It doesn't matter. Building in time for people to think and appreciate what is working and where they want to go next is all about contribution and growth.

Organisations and leaders need to move away from task and job focus. Let's move towards role and contribution. Let's shift cultures. Let's build power and output and strength in our people, collectively. 

Our corporate performance will grow, our people's performance will grow, and morale will grow.


Michelle Elstein is the founder of Courageous Co.