Definitions of Human Resources, Human Resource Management, and their Relation to Human Resource Development

Posted: February 1, 2007 in Human Resource Development


What are human resources and what is human resource management? The following information sheds some light on these terms and ties them to human resource development.

Human Resources

My initial thoughts were that human resources were people who do the work of a company. A definition of human resources from Wikipedia states:

Human Resources has at least two meanings depending on context. Most common within corporations and businesses, human resources refers to the individuals within the firm, and to the portion of the firm’s organization that deals with the hiring, firing, training, and other personnel issues. This usage is derived from the original meaning of human resources as variously defined in political economy and economics, where it was traditionally called labor, one of three factors of production. (Wikipedia, 2005, para. 1)

I found it interesting to realize human resources were once called labor. As I had surmised, human resources are the people who carry out business or work for an organization. Gilley, Eggland, Gilley define human resources as “the people employed by an organization” (Gilley, Eggland, & Gilley, 2002, p. 5).

Human Resource Management

Finding information on human resource management proved a bit of a challenge, and I am unsure if I have pinned it down. The following reference provided me with the following information:

The Human Resources Management (HRM) function includes a variety of activities, and key among them is deciding what staffing needs you have and whether to use independent contractors or hire employees to fill these needs, recruiting and training the best employees, ensuring they are high performers, dealing with performance issues, and ensuring your personnel and management practices conform to various regulations. Activities also include managing your approach to employee benefits and compensation, employee records and personnel policies. Usually small businesses (for-profit or nonprofit) have to carry out these activities themselves because they can’t yet afford part- or full-time help. However, they should always ensure that employees have — and are aware of — personnel policies which conform to current regulations. These policies are often in the form of employee manuals, which all employees have.

Note that some people distinguish a difference between HRM (a major management activity) and HRD (Human Resource Development, a profession). Those people might include HRM in HRD, explaining that HRD includes the broader range of activities to develop personnel inside of organizations, including, eg, career development, training, organization development, etc.

There is a long-standing argument about where HR-related functions should be organized into large organizations, eg, “should HR be in the Organization Development department or the other way around?”

The HRM function and HRD profession have undergone tremendous change over the past 20-30 years. Many years ago, large organizations looked to the “Personnel Department,” mostly to manage the paperwork around hiring and paying people. More recently, organizations consider the “HR Department” as playing a major role in staffing, training and helping to manage people so that people and the organization are performing at maximum capability in a highly fulfilling manner. (McNamara, 1999)

Based on the information provided in this web article human resource management is the activity or action part of managing day-to-day human resources. This information differentiates human resource management as an activity from human resource development that is proposed to be a profession. However, based on the initial readings from the Gilley, Eggland, Gilley text human resource development seems to be a focus on training, improvement, and development of individuals and organizations. They define human resource management as “the recruitment, selection, retention, development, and utilization of and accommodation to human resources by organizations” (Gilley, et al., p. 9).


Human resources and human resource management are related to human resource development. Human resources are simply people, human resource management is the activity of managing people and the business of an organization. Human resource development appears to be the systematic process of change within an organization. It is a specialized process that assists people to reach their potential and further strengthens the goals of an organization.


Gilley, J., Eggland, S., & Gilley, A. (2002). Principles of Human Resource Development. New York: Basic Books.

McNamara, C. (1999). Human Resources Management. Retrieved May 18, 2005, from

Wikipedia. (2005, May). Human resources. Retrieved May 18, 2005, from Wikipedia:


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