Resources for Humans, Not Human Resources

As employees, we often think of “human resources” as our go-to for employee services and benefits, the department that’s supposed to look out for us and respond to issues that arise. While these elements are indeed within the scope of a well-functioning HR department in an organization, there is another focus – a focus that views humans as resources for the company.

This might seem a semantic or innocuous distinction, but it has far-reaching impact on how HR professionals are able to deliver their work, and how employees are ultimately treated, particularly when the chips are down. HR departments are tasked with protecting employees, but also with protecting the company from its employees, as in the case of harassment claims, workplace injury, etc. While certainly many HR professionals are looking out for their fellow employees, they have an additional responsibility to protect the company’s interest – a company that views the employees as assets.

In one way, it might seem nice to be viewed as a resource or an asset to an organization that you care about. It’s important to feel valued – but should your workplace be setting a value on you as a person, or should the workplace be setting a value instead on your work?

Semantics again? Yes, but important ones. It’s a bit easier to see the dangerous slippery slope when we look at terminology like “human capital.” Workers create capital, but they themselves should not be considered as such. Regardless of what the Supreme Court has to say on the subject, a company’s interest shouldn’t trump personal rights.

So, we’re making a small change at ArtsPool that we hope may have a big impact on the culture we’re building. We’re not using the term “Human Resources.” We’re instead using the less catchy, but better positioned “Workforce Administration.” We hope this language helps guide our intentions to support employees and operate within regulatory guidelines, without reducing the people of ArtsPool to entries on a balance sheet.

Questions or comments about our plans for workforce administration services? Please ask them in the comments section below or submit them via our contact form.

Photo: Niorcs


Shortly after publishing the concept paper on Collective Insourcing that Guy mentioned in his initial post, he and I were sitting at a café on Atlantic Avenue slugging coffee and wrestling with the deeper details of how this thing was actually going to work. (We still are, by the way: slugging coffee and wrestling with details, but progress has been made — at least on the details, if not the coffee habit.) We were trying to figure out the key that would really shift the model from a nonprofit service organization requiring consistent contributed income to sustain itself into something else — something that could (eventually) have a chance at self-sufficiency, something that could be fully member-driven and serve to keep resources growing within the arts field, rather than siphoning out of it.

After many coffee refills and many long pauses, we hit on something: labor sharing.

What if we could create a structure that would not only share hard resources and provide services, but also share the employees providing such services? Read More…