by Paul Niquette
Copyright ©1996 Resource Books All rights reserved.

personnel n. 

  1. Body of persons employed by or active in an organization, business, or service. 
  2. An administrative division of an organization concerned with this body of persons. 
"Personnel" vanished from organization charts everywhere.  The year was 1980.  "Human Resources" took its place.  The coup in management terminology, quick and final, surprised nobody.  Business continued unaffected.

The change didn't bother me either, although I find "Human Resources" even more non-personal.  Abbreviate it, HR, it is pronounced "aicharr."  Almost expect to see "Material Resources" on the door down the hall where "Materiel" used to be.

"Personnel" continues in the management lexicon only in sense 1 ("task force personnel to be assigned by headquarters personnel").  "People" works fine, usually.  Better still:

  • "analysts,"
  • "engineers,"
  • "specialists,"
  • "staff,"
  • "technicians," even
  • "workers."
The most suitable use for "personnel" was sense 2, the administrative department.  But that's abolished now.  Personnel personnel must not have cared much for "personnel" either.

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