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Human Resources and People


I recently stumbled upon an enlightening article at last week. It proposed that there were two types of employees: Human Resources and People. What’s the difference you ask? People think for themselves, while Human Resources need everything spelled out with detailed instructions.

A Person is someone who takes charge and figures things out for themselves. Their manager asks them to find a solution to a current problem, and they get to work. They may research the problem, look at possible solutions and present a well thought-out solution (right or wrong) to their team manager. Regardless, they take the initiative and do the work.

A Human Resource is given the same task, but instead needs their manager to walk them through, step by step how to complete the task, to the point that the manager does all the planning, and the Human Resource just follows the plan and executes.

I would say the majority of a company’s employees are People. When given the opportunity they can think and act for themselves; typically with stellar results. However, many times management (who are nearly always People) will try to turn their employees into Human Resources. They will create rigid, specific, instructions for even the simplest tasks, guaranteeing defined results, while sacrificing any chance of innovation.

I say management are People because they make decisions. They plan, prepare and execute without being micromanaged. Think of company CEOs. Their job is not to follow a set of instructions for success, with little allowance for interpretation. Their job is to use initiative, look away from the past, be creative and lead their companies into a bright future.

Rules and instructions are important; I am in no way saying business should run in anarchy. What I am saying is that success rides on an employee’s ability to think and choose. When employees are treated as Human Resources they lose drive, innovation and passion. When they are treated as People, they respond, innovate and overall perform better at their job. People have a sense of destiny and the future. Human Resources have only the past and the present; and typically look elsewhere for the future (turnover).

So this begs the question. Are your employees People or Human Resources?