Humans As Resources?

If I referred to you as a ‘resource’ how would that make you feel? It doesn’t feel very personable or comfortable, does it?  It may feel cold and unwelcoming.  It suggests that you are merely a cog in the machine, a means of production, a number, an asset.

I have never known anyone to feel motivated or inspired by being referred to as a ‘resource’.  Yet this is precisely the type of language many organisations continue to use to describe human beings.  HR is an example of this, seeing people as ‘resources’, like headcount, as human capital.

What about if I referred to you personally by your name?  How would you feel if I took a genuine interest in your life, your interests, your hopes, fears, anxieties, and your dreams?  That feels warmer and more welcoming doesn’t it?

The language we use is important.  It shapes our thinking and our actions.  It feeds into our processes and helps create our workplace cultures.  Treating people as resources, or numbers on a spreadsheet erodes the value of people as individuals.

The future of work will be characterised by a requirement to understand the unique human qualities that people bring to their workplaces.  We need to look beyond the numbers, the metrics, the KPIs, the internal bureaucracy and understand that it is all about people and relationships.   This means not treating people as one homogenous group but tailoring the experience and work for each person.

This a whole new level of connection and engagement at a deep human level.  It means a whole different remit for HR.  Perhaps HR as we know it will disappear?  Instead of HR, maybe the role becomes one where whatever it takes, we provide the environment and culture for each human being to be their very best and play to their natural strengths.

What new name could we give HR to better reflect this purpose?

The days of people being considered as numbers or resources could be consigned to the history books.  It sounds idealistic, but it’s a vision worth striving for.

Kevin Miller
Kevin Millerhttps://www.apexhr.co.uk/
My 'Why' is to inspire a movement towards truly people-centred organizations. Organizations which see the person first and the employee second. A Coach, facilitator, and catalyst for positive change, I thrive on the challenge of making the world of work better and more humanized for people in organizations. I love networking and collaborating to share fresh ideas, insights and to learn. I have an in-depth knowledge and practical 'hands-on' experience of leading HR and Organizational Development projects. I am a visionary who rethinks what is possible when it comes to HR, leadership and the future of work, igniting positive change in others. Never forgetting the real reason behind my work, I love spending time with my wife Kelly and my children who are the centre of my world and the reason behind my 'Why'.


  1. a lot of companies have already started to try -Chief People Officer, People Operations, Talent Management, People Resource Center even ‘Employee Experience’ … I guess trying to mirror ‘Customer Experience’ – but the fact is they all fall short, because ‘Corporate’ – I touched on this a little in my newsletter last week, with lots more to come – have also shared a few People First tenets in the second link to help recognize the issue.

    Corporate Speak : https://johnphilpin.substack.com/p/corporate-speak

    Some views on People In Business (just images) : https://people-first.net/2019/07/01/people-not-assets-talent-staff-people/