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Blog By Retain

Why are People Called "Resources"?

By Dan Barraclough
Senior Content Writer

  • 4 min

Why Are People Called Resources?

In today’s business environment, ‘human resources’ has become an integral part of organisational language and management practices. However, some question why people are considered to be ‘resources’, while others argue there are compelling reasons why it’s acceptable and beneficial in the context of business.

In this article, we’ll explore the true meaning behind human resources and discuss why people are considered valuable resources in the workplace. We’ll also look at the benefits of referring to employees as resources and how this perspective can help your business hit its goals and thrive in today's competitive business landscape.

Why people are called resources

In multi-project planning, many argue you can simplify the process and make better decisions by using the word resource, helping you see the big picture more clearly. When it comes to hitting targets, employees are your company’s greatest resource.

More than just material things or money, people are the ones who get things done for your business. They know how your company – and their own team – work best, allowing them to get their projects completed quickly and effectively.

The people in your company also often work with customers. This means your employees can give insight into what your target audience is thinking or needs, which, when it comes to nailing projects, is far more valuable insight than what money or other resources could ever provide.

As your company’s most valuable resource, people can also anticipate roadblocks, suggest ways to make your teams more efficient, and find ways to deliver to the customer. These are crucial qualities for completing projects accurately and on time.

Why not to call people resources

While the term "resources" is commonly used to refer to people in the context of work and employment, there are some reasons why it may not be appropriate to do so. Some people find it unacceptable that people are considered resources, suggesting they’re simply a means to an end, rather than individuals with their own unique qualities and needs. As such, some businesses have moved away from using the term resources and use terms like ‘employees’ or ‘team members’ instead.

Here are some of the main reasons why you shouldn't call people resources:


Referring to people as resources can be seen as dehumanising because it reduces people to objects or assets that are used to achieve a goal, rather than individuals with their own unique qualities, values, and needs.

Negative connotation

The term ‘resource’ is often associated with objects or things that you can use up, or become depleted, which can create a negative connotation when applied to people and affect morale.

Lack of appreciation

If you consider people as resources, you risk conveying that they’re easily replaceable, which can lead to a lack of appreciation and recognition for the contributions that employees make to your business.

Poor employee morale

When employees feel like they aren’t valued as individuals, it can lead to low morale, job dissatisfaction, and reduced productivity.

Inaccurate representation

Simply referring to people as resources doesn’t accurately depict the experience that employees bring to their work, and this can limit your company’s ability to fully leverage its human capital.

Why referring to people as resources is okay

We’ve already discussed why people are considered resources in some businesses, but here are the reasons why they think it’s okay:

Strategic management

Simply put, it can help you manage your workforce strategically. By understanding the skills, knowledge, and experience of your employees, you can assign them to projects or tasks that align with their strengths, which can lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction, which are crucial for successful project management.

Effective planning

Using the term resource is useful when planning and managing projects, especially if your company juggles multiple projects simultaneously. By considering employees as resources with specific skills and experience, your managers can plan projects more effectively and allocate resources more efficiently.

Resource allocation

Your business can make informed decisions about which projects to pursue, and which resources to allocate to each project or task, by understanding the capabilities and availability of your employees.


Referring to employees as resources can help your managers maintain an objective and business-focused perspective when making decisions about their team. Also, managers can make decisions based on business needs rather than personal relationships or biases.

Increased productivity

By ensuring that your employees are assigned to tasks and projects that align with their strengths, your business can create a more engaged and motivated workforce.

What does human resources mean?

The term ‘human resources’ generally refers to the people who work for your business and contribute their knowledge, skills, and experience to help your company achieve its goals. Here, ‘resources’ implies that people are seen as valuable assets or tools that can be used to achieve your company objectives.

In a business department context, human resources is commonly used to describe the department or function that manages the workforce of your business, including recruiting, hiring, training, compensating, and managing employees, as well as handling other functions like employee relations, benefits administration, and performance management.

Generally speaking, ‘human resources’ reflects the idea that your people are the most important asset of your company, and that their knowledge, skills, and experience are critical to hitting targets and maintaining success.

By investing in the development and well-being of your employees, your business can create a skilled and engaged workforce that’s better equipped to meet the challenges of a rapidly-changing business environment, particularly when it comes to the introduction of new technologies or business trends.

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