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What’s in a Name?

By May 10, 2022May 12th, 2022No Comments

Have you ever pondered where the term Human Resources (HR) came from or how the department itself came about? The HR function is new in our working world. HR as we know it, is roughly 100 years young with its roots in the Industrial Revolution.  Since then, HR has seen extraordinary change throughout its 100+ years. I remember when the Personnel department became the HR department.

Here’s a little-known fact about those two connected words. John R. Commons, an American pioneer of labor economics, first came up with the term “human resource” in his book “The Distribution of Wealth,” published in 1893.

A good HR department is critical to an organization’s success and conversely, a bad HR department can be responsible for a very costly failed organization. What does HR do beyond the basic administrative functions?

In reality, the answer is, “A lot”. However, that answer doesn’t give you any real information. As an example, when the pandemic hit, who at work did you look to for information and guidance? Most likely, your HR department.

The HR department is responsible for managing the whole life cycle of an employee. It’s a whole department dedicated to humans (employees) in your organization. This includes a long, and not all-inclusive, list:

  • talent acquisition (Not just hiring! This includes succession planning and organizational strategy and more.)
  • onboarding
  • training and employee development
  • managing employee benefits
  • health and wellness
  • leaves of absence
  • employee relations
  • creating and updating policies and procedures
  • health and safety
  • culture
  • engagement
  • compensation
  • recordkeeping
  • coaching and counseling
  • separations from employment and
  • ensuring that each of these areas is carried out in a legal and ethical manner.

Each of these areas include a host of responsibilities and complexities. Compliance with the ever-changing, ever-expanding list of laws and regulations means that what HR is responsible for is constantly changing and adapting. The good news is you don’t have to know everything, and you are not alone. 501(c) HR Services was created for nonprofit organizations both large and small. As the saying goes, there are no stupid questions, so don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance.


501 members and 501(c) HR Services subscribers have unlimited access to HR Services. Contact us anytime regarding absenteeism, need a sample policy or procedure, or any other HR situations.

The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.

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