William R. Tracey, in The Human Resources Glossary, defines human resources as, “The people that staff and operate an organization… as contrasted with the financial and material resources of an organization.”
Human resources are the people who work for an organization in jobs that produce the products or services of the business or organization.
Human resources evolved from these older terms as the functions of the field moved beyond paying employees and managing employee benefits. The evolution of the HR function gave credence to the fact that people are an organization’s most important resources.
Human resources, as a name for employees, was first used in a book published in 1893 according to Wikipedia and was regularly used in the early 1900’s.
The modern use of the term, human resources, dates from the 1960’s. Now, most organizations call employees and the department or office designated to assist the organization and its people, Human Resources.
Over the years, calling employees “human resources” has been the subject of much debate.
People who do not like the term applied to people believe that identifying people as an asset or resource of an organization — in the same terminology you’d use to refer to land, building materials, or machines — is improper, and can lead to poor treatment of employees.
Efforts are underway to modernize the term, human resources. Increasingly, you hear employees referred to as team members, associates, members of the organization, knowledge workers, or talent. The new names imply that all of the employees in the company are essentially peers, and that they’re all equally valued as people.
This is reflected in statements like, “As employees, no matter your job title or rank, we are all equal as team members.
In a second meaning, human resources is also the name of the department or functional area from which the HR employees provide HR services to the rest of the organization.
People are an organization’s primary asset. You must hire, onboard, pay, satisfy, motivate, engage, manage, develop, and retain your employees.
Your HR department is your investment in accomplishing these goals with the people you employ. Whether their customer is management or individual employees, your HR staff is accountable for producing the results you need in each of these areas. This does not mean that the HR department is solely responsible for results in these areas.
Foremost in accomplishing these goals with employees are your managers or front line supervisors to whom the employees report. They are the people who interact with employees every day to ensure that you have a motivated, contributing workforce. The HR office supports their front-line efforts.