Understand that in days of yore, factories consisted of people and machines. The goal was to use more machines, fewer people, and to design processes so that the people were interchangeable, low cost and easily replaced. The more leverage the factory-owner had, the better. Hence Personnel or the even more cruel term: HR. It views people as a natural resource, like lumber.
Like it or not, in most organizations HR has grown up with a forms/clerical/factory focus. Which was fine, I guess, unless your goal was to do something amazing, something that had nothing to do with a factory, something that required amazing programmers, remarkable marketers or insanely talented strategy people.
So, here’s my small suggestion, one that will make some uncomfortable.
Change the department name to Talent.
The reason this makes some people uncomfortable is that it seems like spin, like gratuitous double speak. And, if you don’t change what you do, that would be true.
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.)
Microsoft and Google both have a very healthy focus on finding and recruiting Talent. McDonald’s recently announced that they want to hire people who smile more. The first strategy works, the second won’t. Talent is too smart to stay long at a company that wants it to be a cog in a machine. Great companies want and need talent, but they have to work for it.