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Is There a Difference Between Human Resources and Personnel Management?

Personnel management mostly is about payroll and administration.
Human resources training meeting.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 29 March 2014
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Some experts assert that there is no difference between human resources and personnel management. They state that the two terms can be used interchangeably, with no difference in meaning. In fact, the terms are often used interchangeably in help-wanted ads and job descriptions.

For those who recognize a difference between them, the distinction can often be described as philosophical. Personnel management is more administrative in nature, dealing with payroll, complying with employment law, and handling related tasks. Human resources, on the other hand, is responsible for managing a workforce as one of the primary resources that contributes to the success of an organization.

When a difference between the two is recognized, human resources is usually described as being broader in scope. It is said to incorporate and develop personnel management tasks, while seeking to create and develop teams of workers for the benefit of the organization. A primary goal of human resources is to enable employees to work to a maximum level of efficiency.

Personnel management can include administrative tasks that are both traditional and routine. It can be described as reactive, providing a response to demands and concerns as they are presented. By contrast, human resources involves ongoing strategies to manage and develop an organization's workforce. It is proactive, as it involves the continuous development of functions and policies for the purposes of improving a company’s workforce.

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Human resource management tends to be an integral part of overall company function, while personnel management is often considered an independent function of an organization. It is typically the sole responsibility of an organization’s personnel department. With human resources, all of an organization’s managers are often involved in some manner, and a chief goal may be to have managers of various departments develop the skills necessary to handle personnel-related tasks.

As far as motivators are concerned, personnel management typically seeks to motivate employees with such things as compensation, bonuses, rewards, and the simplification of work responsibilities. From this point of view, employee satisfaction provides the motivation necessary to improve job performance. The opposite is true of human resources. Human resource management holds that improved performance leads to employee satisfaction. With human resources, work groups, effective strategies for meeting challenges, and job creativity are seen as the primary motivators.

When looking for a job in these fields, it is important to realize that many companies use the terms interchangeably. Someone who is offered a job as a personnel manager may be required to perform the same duties as a human resource manager, and vice versa. In some companies, a distinction is made, but the difference is very subtle.

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Discuss this Article

anon246236
Post 40

Some years ago I read some management consultant's opinion to the effect that the name change from "personnel" to "human resources" more accurately reflected the actual state of things, which is what? Capitalist theory's perspective on and attitude toward flesh-and-blood human beings? "Personnel," a plural, comes from French, and means just that - "persons" or "people."

Certainly, if capitalist theory holds that human beings are merely and solely "resources," then it would appear that the name change does more accurately reflect humans' status in the eyes of capitalism. Capitalism is not concerned with humans qua humans.

It's not a little ironic how capitalists insist on referring to humans as "human resources" and "human capital," yet insist on the legal conceit and fiction of "corporate personhood."

anon193657
Post 39

Re: anon135267 Post 28: Exactly my thoughts. Well put.

anon166153
Post 38

All HRM are managers, but not all managers are HRM. The functions of both HRM and PM are intertwined in the nature of one another, except that HRM goes a little further in terms of external/international affairs while PM is more involved with internal/national affairs. William K.

anon162563
Post 35

All managers are HR managers. Do you agree or disagree? why?

anon160841
Post 33

You helped me a lot. Nowadays it is very important to know why human resources are assets of the company. good work. Thank you.

anon158907
Post 32

Thanks. this was very helpful and straight to the point.

anon156991
Post 30

thanks a lot. it is really helpful.

anon135267
Post 28

Difference is that to Human Resources, humans are resource to be used exploited and discarded for the benefit of stockholders. Personnel is more concerned with the appearance of decency and slight touch of humanity that Human Resources does not consider.

anon121057
Post 26

good piece of work! helped me loads for my exams. thanks!

anon116596
Post 25

Thanks for emphasizing more on differences between PM and HRM. Now i have the basic knowledge without being an HR manager. IDOWU from Scotland.

anon104781
Post 24

it's really a very helpful article for every HR person.

anon97853
Post 23

I was so engrossed in this article! thanks for the good work and may the Almighty God bless you richly. it really helped. I was fascinated with the differences in motivation for the personnel and human resources management respectively. I gained some insight into the way some personnel/human resource managers think!

anon95940
Post 21

very helpful article!

anon83006
Post 18

Thanks a lot. Nice and simple.

anon75956
Post 16

Great satisfactory information. Wholly helped me to understand the difference between human resource management and personnel management!

anon74469
Post 15

Thanks a lot for the article. It helped me to know the difference between HRM and Personnel Mamangement.

anon74439
Post 14

i have benefited from the the way the writer has simply sorted out the confusion between the two terms. it has indeed helped me have a clear insight.

anon73719
Post 13

thank you for the article! it has helped me in my short assignment! how can i get more?

anon67321
Post 12
anon54827
Post 11

Spot on. Thank you very much for the neat work.

anon53653
Post 10

thanks a lot for the article. it helped me a lot in my assignment, as well, unlike many websites. Thank you!

anon52722
Post 9

My search on this topic was over after i read this article. Thanks a lot.

anon52454
Post 8

I was highly motivated when i was going through all your good works put on the net free for us. May god almighty helps you to achieve more in life. Jeremiah from ghana.

anon49843
Post 7

There are many articles available on web for this this topic, but there are very few which actually tell you the difference between HRM and personnel management, your article is one of them, which can give a broad idea to the reader with less literature. It helps.

anon40127
Post 6

your article helped me a lot in my assignments. thanks. I'm Sonia Sharma from Chandigarh, India doing MBA 1st year

anon16996
Post 3

your article is very good. im the student of bs (hons) accounting and finance. in this semester im studying hrm. is in real sense hrm theories are applying in organization? i visit many organizations 4 the purpose of assignments but i really dont see what should be hrm?

anon768
Post 1

When I began my career in the field of "supporting the human element" in the workplace, I was referred to as a Personnel Management Specialist. Many years, much training, and wonderful "work life" experiences, those of us in this human element of a workplace began hearing our field referred to as human resources, or human resources management. Just as your article points out, the term personnel management and human resources management were, and are, very interchangeable. Having experienced the Federal public sector as a personnelist or human resources analyst, as well as the municipal and private sectors, I have come to see a significant difference between the "sectors" not the titles. The level of intensity and breadth of statutory,regulatory,and case law knowledge required in the Federal sector so far surpasses what I've observed and experienced in the municipal and private sectors that there is little doubt of the disparity between what one must know to reach the pinnacle of the field in one sector vs. another. It seems that somewhere in all the "interchange of verbage" there should be some truer distinction of personnel management vs. human resource management.

Moderator's reply: Thanks for that valuable insight!

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