Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Resources vs. People

Is it just me, or is anyone else out there bothered by the use of the word resources to refer to a company's employees? Webster's defines resource as:

That to which one resorts or on which one depends for supply or support; means of overcoming a difficulty; resort; expedient
I suppose employees fit within that definition, but so do the desks and copy machines. Maybe it's my ego, but I like to be distinguished from inanimate objects in the workplace. The word resource to me is just too cold and inhuman.

Lots of organizations preach that people are their most important asset. It's easy to say, but how do you demonstrate that value?

  • By putting significant effort into designing a thorough and effective interview process, to make sure you hire the best people to begin with. How well organized is your company's interview process? And how often have you had to let someone go because they didn't turn out to be a good fit?
  • By respecting people within the organization. Give them clear objectives and establish a culture that encourages them to innovate and excel working as a team. Establish a culture of continuous improvement where every employee is truly empowered and expected to improve quality, process, and customer satisfaction. In Toyota, every production line worker is expected to stop the line if they find any problem, get to the root cause, and then correct it.
  • By growing people within the organization. Give people a clear path for career growth. Give them opportunities to try different roles within the organization. When you have a position to fill, look inside the organization first before looking for someone new.
A good indicator of how well your company treats its employees is their longevity within the company. Be wary of any company where the average employee has only been around for 1-2 years.


Yuri Gadow said...

Referring to people as resources drives me nuts; partly because I find myself infected as well and having to forcibly edit the usage out of my own communications more than I'd like.

Our Dell 123MP projector is a resource, and our Jane Doe is human being who brings qualitatively, not only quantitatively, more to the firm. Moreover, the firm's reason for existing at all is for Jane Doe (and Warren Doe if we're public.)

It's a bad habit that HR departments have spread, not unlike how IT departments have spread terrible security practices, i.e., we've allowed them to by seeking convenience instead of precision in communication.

Anonymous said...

Resources is a cold word that makes employees feel that they're objects, and not human beings. Nevertheless, it is often said by Managers/Project Managers, but most of the times not in front of the employees.

Maybe you can create a poll on your site about this (Do you call your employees resources? YES/NO)...

Brad Swanson said...

Thanks for the poll idea. It's on there now!