People as Things

I remember the exact year that the Personnel Department became the Human Resources department, and it was a sad day indeed.

The “Personnel Department” denoted that the employees of a corporation were people. They were each different, had different skill sets, different aspirations, different methods of learning. It implied that the people working in the department, we, in fact, people also. They understood that all people are different and each needed a different method of communication and incentive.

In my position as a Line Producer, a common misconception is that I’m “the money guy.” While, yes, this is part of the job, if you understand how things work, how much things cost, understand the marketplace and budget accordingly, the money part of the position never changes… it may move around, just as it does in your own household, but if I say it’s going to going to cost $1000 to make a show, at the end of the day, it cost $1000. It’s an accountants job to count the pennies, I simply follow the plan that I created at the outset when I budgeted the project and manage it accordingly.

However, the bulk of my time is spent with people. Putting together a crew that all work well together is a daunting task. You truly, need to know people, understand all the elements of them. Who works well with each other, and who does not. And then, added to the equation, you have elements that you can’t change. Elements such as the person who owns the location you want to shoot at; the crewmember who’s spouse just had a baby; there are any one of a million variations and nuances that change when dealing with people.

The term, “Human Resources” is demeaning to people. It reduces all of us down to a common denominator… a resource, which we are not. A hammer is a resource. A nail is a resources. There is no difference between one hammer and the next. All nails are created equal. It implies that common misconception that all people are the same, that no one person is irreplaceable, and this is simply not true and to assume so only further demonstrates the complete and utter lack of understanding and knowledge of any “HR” person or department.

To put it plain and simply, some people are not replaceable. You may slot another person in a position, just as you CAN drive a screw with a hammer, but you shouldn’t and you will never get the same result. Human Resource people do not have a good grasp on managing the one thing the claim to have an understanding of… people. In replacing a lost “resource” they usually ask a manager to write a “wish list” of what they want a new employee to do, then interview that person with absolutely no knowledge, whatsoever, of the position being filled. This is not “managing a resource,” this isn’t even an efficient method if hiring a person. They might as well ask the janitor (no offence to janitors in this dialogue), to choose the next person that will be managing the IT team. You just wouldn’t do it because it’s a dumb idea.

In an era of being so politically correct it makes me sick, I think the one term that needs correcting is Human Resources Department. It’s demeaning, derogatory and objectifies all people and is just plan wrong. Time to revert to what it used to be and should be called… the Personnel Department. And while we’re at it, maybe we could actually have people working in the department that understand the positions they’re hiring for because the second you trivialize all workers is the second you just lost your edge with the competition.

Seaghan Hancocks

Mr. Seaghan (pronounced shawn) Hancocks works as a professional broadcast Line Producer. Between gigs he writes for his growing web clientele.

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