Letter to the Editor: In defense of "Human Resources"

I'd like to respond to the letter from Dr. Bryan Rylands criticizing the term Human Resources ("Attack on 'Human Resources,'" Vol. 3, No. 3, February 13-26, 1997). While I agree that this is not the best term, it in fact grew in use during the 1960s and 1970s as a term to transform the thinking of managers more in the direction Dr. Rylands emphasizes.

Previously, under the term Personnel or even Employment, the spending of financial resources in the staff area was seen a pure "cost", the same as buying benzine or copy paper. This allowed for decisions based purely on reducing costs since once the money was spent there and the labor "consumed" there was no further return.

New adherents of views like Dr. Rylands, that money spent on people is not simply expense, but rather an "investment" in the future, coined a new term as a banner to promote "investment" rather than "cost" with people. The term that became accepted - Human Resources - was symbolic of this radical change of view of employees. I agree that this is not the best term, but I currently haven't any better.

My question to Dr. Rylands, and others, then, is what is the best term "which reflects what he and others in companies really are" as he states it. Surely employment is not it, and the old term of personnel" is still cloaked in "cost-based" thinking. If one criticizes terminology, then one should offer new alternatives.

Best regards. Keep up the great reporting.

Steven J. Kelly, Partner KNO Slovensko

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