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What’s Wrong with “Human Resources”?


Members of the EWC team. Illustration by Megan Leonard.


When we recently posted our opening for a "People Practices Specialist," it got a lot of attention. As an example, the Pillar Nonprofit Network cited it as an example of decent work leadership in its International Workers Day post.


Given the interest in our job posting, we thought we'd share a (brief) summary of exactly why we advocate for "people practices" instead of "human resources," and how we're seeking to support cultures that are relational, not transactional.


 

The term "human resources" emerged in the mid-20th century in response to growing recognition of worker needs and welfare after the industrial revolution. 


But this shift remained largely transactional: while the new field advocated for worker education, training, and health, this was a strategy to maximize efficiency, productivity, and profit. Ultimately, humans were just another “resource” to be capitalized on. 


At Evenings & Weekends Consulting, we use the term “People Practices” instead of “Human Resources” to move away from the traditional approaches to management that are anchored in power over, and often exploitation of, employees. 


  • We view the workplace as centered on relationships: ones that can be reciprocal, supportive, and collaborative. 

  • We believe that work can be a place of community, and often an avenue for people to gain a sense of purpose, value, and pride. 


This is how we approach our work with other organizationsWhen we collaborate on projects connected to people practices  — like recruitment, policy development, strategic planning, or equity audits — we recognize the power and ability that we have to advance change collectively. Rather than power over, it’s power with.


We don’t have all the answers, but we try our best to:


  1. Recognize and acknowledge the ways that traditional human resources approaches have caused harm and perpetuated violence, often by treating people as resources to be heavily extracted from. 

  2. Critically reflect (in an ongoing way) on how we might collectively design people practices that are relational — not transactional — and that centre care, joy and rest.


 

Interested in learning more about our approach to people practices? Reach out!

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