Seth Godin On Re-Branding Human Resources. Good or Bad Idea?

Seth Godin, the immensely popular marketing author and consultant, posted a blog recently titled Marketing HR.

I admire and respect Seth. I was first introduced to Seth at a event in NYC back in the 1990's and I've read many of his books. But I must respectfully disagree with his posting that says companies should change the "human resources" department name to "Talent".

While it's an interesting idea to rename or re-brand the human resources department to talent, it won't make any difference. And with all due respect to Seth, there is nothing new about this idea. It is a been-there-done-it idea.

HR has been re-branded many times over the years. Human resources used to be called Personnel. Companies then toyed with the name Human Capital. Some companies, like WalMart, started calling their HR execs, Chief People Officer. Others have embraced Talent Scout.

Seth says:
What if you started acting like the VP of Talent? Understanding that talent is hard to find and not obvious to manage. The VP of Talent would have to reorganize the department and do things differently all day long (small example: talent shouldn't have to fill out reams of forms and argue with the insurance company... talent is too busy for that... talent has people to help with that.)".
Again, nothing new here. It's been happening for years. While Seth is exactly on the mark that winning companies understand that talent is hard to find and not obvious to manage, the fact is most HR suppliers have already repositioned their offerings to focus on "talent management" solutions. And many leading organizations have already figured out the importance of talent management and the benefits of outsourcing most HR administration (as Seth says, "filling out forms").

So a simple name change will have no impact. Call HR whatever you want but the companies that don't get it will continue not to get it. Leading HR experts like Dr. John Sullivan and others have been preaching this for years.

Take a look at any Best Companies to Work for list and you'll see that virtually all of them on the list still call the department "Human Resources". Conversely, you can find many "lousy companies to work for" that have re-branded the HR department to something more cute.

At the end of the day, actions speak louder than words.

But Seth's blog posting does help advance the conversation that HR needs to play a more critical role in the business and this alone makes it a good posting.

Thanks Seth.

Posted by Mark Willaman