Accelerate May 2015 - Page 37

Lit Humans are not resources. No manager talks about having coffee with one of her “humans.” No father holds his young son and hopes he will one day grow up to be a great “resource.” It is difficult to have the right relationship between a company and its people when the corporate function responsible for doing so goes by a euphemism. You might as well call them widgets, flesh-andblood widgets. That’s what the term “human resources” means. That’s how they are too often treated. In trying to get a better seat at the executive table with numbercrunching departments like Accounting and Operations and Marketing, the executives in charge of the hiring, culture, payroll, insurance, and training were seduced into using impersonal metrics for persons. Business lost its bearings in how to deal with people. Once people are seen as widgets—as “human resources”— it’s much easier to apply to them the kinds of Operationspeak that should be reserved for raw materials. They are “downsized,” “attritted,” “onboarded,” “blended,” “change-managed,” “diversity-trained,” “e-taught,” “force-ranked,” “matrixed,” “requisitioned,” or “made redundant.” In the human resources machinery, people’s entire working lives too often Once people are seen as widgets—as “human resources”— it’s much easier to apply to them the kinds of Operationspeak that should be reserved for raw materials. are reduced to a series of clicks on an automated “selection system” and sorted by computer into “As,” “Bs,” and “Cs” for the hiring manager. They are stereotyped by their generation, rated on their “competencies” and their computer-calculated “strengths,” combined for a “group dynamic” designed by an “industrial psychologist,” tracked by a “human resources information system,” and tagged with a Myers- Briggs Type Indicator. They are analyzed for target “behaviors.” They are ordered to pee in a cup and hand it over. The temptation to treat people like widgets is not new. Charlie Chaplin made a movie about it in 1936. Henry Ford is reputed to have complained, “Why is it that I always get the whole person when what I really want is a pair of hands?” More than a century ago, Frederick Winslow Taylor, the pioneer of time-and-motion studies, tried to engineer an optimal system where the employees best served the machinery around them. “It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone,” he wrote in his book, The Principles of Scientific Management. Taylor would have been ecstatic May 2015 37