A lot of businesses like to chatter about the importance of their people. This is little more than lip service to the minions.

First of all, the “HR” depart IS at the bottom of the corporate food chain no matter how many “C Level” meetings the HR [choose one: VP, Senior VP, Manager, Officer, Lord over all Associates] ‘gets’ to attend.

Face it. Does new product development start in HR? Does HR have input into the new marketing program? Nope. HR is a cost control function. HR is an annoyance at best, a drag on profits in most cases. Outsourcing every damn employee with all the attending regulation, tax and benefit costs would be the fulfillment of a corporate dream.

No? What’s the first cut in every “down turn”? Humans.

Let’s look at the term Human Resources. Coal is a resource. It’s dig out of the ground and burned up to produce heat or electricity.

Raw materials that go into your products are resources. The materials are consumed in the production of your goods and sold for profit.

Human. Can you imagine a CEO announcing the company’s plan to add 50 new humans to work at the new plant? Or how about this? The company will eliminate 100 humans from our workforce as a cost reduction measure. Maybe this at a union negotiation meeting, “the rising cost of humans has to be capped and we must cut the benefits of the already retired humans.”

I remember when HR used to be called “Personnel.” Personnel was to impersonal. There was a seemingly overnight change, acceptance of that change, in terminology to Human Resources.

Human Resources? That is a boneheaded, demeaning and wasteful term for what truly could be, but never will be, a company’s most valuable asset. I say never will be because management will never let go of total control and the insane drive for growth except at a very few, well run companies. Our management pool is cloudy with the urinative waste of old school managers, ‘my way’ managers. And the new generation has been fed  too much school and become jargon-spewing, MBA metrics-crazy technocrats lacking sense and sensibility. No big changes coming soon except for change wrought by the usual every 5 year recession, the shrinkage of the gap between the U.S. and developing World’s economies and the retirement burden of carrying 78 million boomers. Sure, maybe toss in a few Black Swans—terrorists events, Katrinas and maybe even something as exotic as a solar flare taking out the entire electrical grid and communication satellite system.

Change will come by resistance and the whip. Management will seek ways to preserve the old ways rather than embrace the new. Valuable time will be lost.

But if you are in HR, let me ask you this. If you really do care about people, if you really do see people as your company’s most valuable asset, why don’t YOU lead the charge to rename your department to Talent? Why don’t you operate a talent agency from within your company? You could actually get the credit for the best innovation to happen at your company in decades if your company has been around longer than the milk in my refrigerator.

Treat people like talent. Call on their talent. Hire only talented people. Expect people to use their talent and foster an environment where they can.

Impossible? Probably. But I guarantee that all the aforementioned improvements can only start by changing the name of your department from HR to Talent.

Where are all the courageous HR people we keep hearing about? I’ve been to the conventions. I’ve seen the panel discussions and heard the speeches from HR professionals claiming that their CEO really does see HR as key to the organization. Really! He [usually] tells us all the time how valuable we are and lets us in on every new strategic initiative from the very beginning.

Actually, HR comes in when they have to. Face it. When was the last time you saw a business story about a great HR initiative in a real business publication? No cheating, I don’t mean something your read in HR Today or HR Professional. Imagine a Wall Street Journal Headline reading “Company Talent Directly Responsible for New Product Development and Successful Launch.”

Think about this please. When a studio decides to accept a script and make a movie, what comes first? Talent. (Can we get Clooney and Streep??!) Manhattan Project? Talent. Race to the moon? Talent. If it’s big, it will start with talent.

If it matters, talent is the first consideration and most important element. Then, once you’ve got talent, staff the thing. Get HR to hire a bunch of gophers. Hum.

What if YOU led HR out of the gopher business and into the talent business? YOU could.

You’ll need courage and tenacity. And, you may have to change jobs. You may never succeed. But trying to make this change will get you noticed and will benefit your career.

Do you have what it takes to run the company or are you really just HR?

That’s YOUR call.

Chris Reich, looking at HR in a new way.