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June 20, 2013 / Mervyn Dinnen

Can We Talk About People Please?

Today started with a business leader on breakfast TV talking of how they had ‘tidied up’ a subsidiary that had made losses. There was something almost Hitlerian about this – part of this tidying up would have been restructuring and redundancies. That’s people – their expectations and ambitions, their commitments and responsibilities – being cleared away in the tidying up.

Then there were a couple of recruitment commentators in my timeline promoting the fact that more businesses were talking about increasing their use of flexible resources in the next 3 months. That’s people they’re talking about, now a flexible resource. People with dependants and responsibilities, plans and hopes, expectations and ambitions, people with full time commitments but now getting part time, flexible income.

A ray of sunshine appeared when Tim Oldman of Leesman Index talked of workplace design being a people business not a buildings business.

The language of business seems seriously skewed at the moment. It’s depersonalising and dehumanising jobs, driving a race to the bottom for the value and self-worth of those who do the work. And it’s self-defeating as those with precarious incomes live precarious lives, which benefits no-one in the long run.

Tomorrow I’ll be joining a bunch of fine HR folk in London for the 5th ConnectingHR unconference. The topic is Brave HR.

Maybe re-humanising and re-personalising the language of business would be a brave start.



(Image courtesy of Lessons From Fantasy)



Leave a Comment
  1. Steve Levy (@levyrecruits) / Jun 20 2013 10:01 PM

    Sadly – and at times I’m just as guilty – in the race to produce profit, everything in business is transformed into an item on a balance sheet. People become human capital and have an associated EVA. Even ‘human RESOURCES’ marginalizes the person…

    Perhaps your conference can include smacking a “trader piñata” with a stick; might be a cure all but alas it might be a fine start 😉

  2. Jacob Sten Madsen / Jun 20 2013 11:22 PM

    Decline all around and in all aspects in the internal pursuit of profit and ROI. People have become commodities, yet are the reason and key to everything (90% on all there is on planet earth come from the hands of people/human beings) It has and appear to be the singe largest misunderstood resource and so undervalued and under utilised. It could actually be great but we humans have managed to mess it up so badly and so comprehensively. What is needed is paradigm shift on the largest possible scale, however with population rich and human life indifferent nations like China and India, there is little hope that human life may come to be taken seriously and seen as the true differentiator.

  3. Jon Ingham (@joningham) / Jun 21 2013 9:08 AM

    Hey Mervyn, great post – it’s why I think all this nonsense about HR being a business person first is going in completely the wrong direction –

    Let’s hope Brave HR sees a return to some sanity and a renewed focus on people within HR – and business.

  4. Sian Rowland / Jun 21 2013 10:50 AM

    The worst thing about being made redundant (and there were many) from the public sector was being told that I had been ‘deleted.’ Isn’t that what the cybermen do? totally dehumanising. I think it makes it easier for the senior management to rationalise redundancy and other distasteful situations. Nothing personal, it was just time for you be deleted. And a plea to HR folk: when sending paperwork to the home address of a deleted person, please don’t put things like NOTIFICATION OF TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT BY REASON OF REDUNDANCY in big bold letters on the front of the envelope with the address so even the postie knows your business. It’s humiliating.

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