Are People Resources? – Why Do We Call Employees Resources?

Published by Karoline Holicky

December 8th, 2017

in Resource Management

When I was new to the world of PPM, I started hearing the term resource management. At first, I wasn’t sure what was meant by the word resource. Were they talking about natural resources, financial resources, material resources or human resources? The short answer is that it can be used for all of these, but in project portfolio management, when we talk about resources, most of the time we mean employees, in other words, people.

For instance, Meisterplan is a resource-based solution. Pricing plans are determined not by the number of users, but by the number of resources that are planned in Meisterplan. Here is our definition: “Every individual person or material resource that you plan for in Meisterplan counts as a resource.” As you can see, you can plan for both material resources or employees in Meisterplan, but 90+% of the time, the resources that our customers manage in Meisterplan are human resources or employees.

Why Are People Called Resources?

In truth, employees are a company’s greatest resource. Many employees have direct contact with customers. They can give insight on what the customer is thinking, what the customer needs, they can anticipate problems, and suggest improvements based on customer feedback. (Source:

Employees are the ones who get the job done. They know how the organization and especially how their specific team works best. They know what methodologies and tools help them get their projects completed quickly and effectively. Your company cannot be successful without productive employees. So, yes, employees are resources and very valuable resources at that.

Is It Wrong to Call People Resources?

Many people are offended by calling people resources. I can understand that. I sometimes even cringe when I read an article about resource management that never explicitly indicates that when they say resources they mean people.

So why do we (and by we, I’m including myself) do it? Why do we refer to people as resources? It is common in project management and project portfolio management to refer to people as resources. This is also common in, of course, recruiting and Human Resources (even the department name includes the term). The term is also commonly used in academic studies when learning about people in organizations or corporations.

The reason that employees are referred to as resources is because it is easier to make sense of a complex situation when you bring it down to abstract terms. If you are managing 30+ projects, you may have five project teams with five to ten people on each team. For planning purposes, it makes sense to think of those people as resources with specific skills. This is especially the case when changes arise: a new top priority, a key employee goes on leave, extreme weather delays a project, etc. When these things happen, you often must find resources or employees with specific skills to fill in the gaps. You have to manage your resources.

Is it wrong to call people resources?

This isn’t to say that these employees are not valued. They are highly valued. I would never recommend calling a person a resource to their face. If you are managing a team of people, get to know each team member personally. Go to lunch with them and spend time outside of the normal business setting to understand the person better, what makes them tick, and what they value. Let them know how important they are to the team.

If you are a portfolio manager who doesn’t work with the teams on a daily basis, you can still make an effort to get to know the people. This will make your employees feel that they are truly valued. On top of that, it may make your job easier. When you are managing your resources (employees), you probably have a list of their skills in the application you are using. If you get to know those people personally, you may learn additional skills that they have that weren’t necessarily listed on their resume, but that makes them a perfect fit for a specific project.

Calling people resources is probably not going to stop anytime soon. We hope this article helps you to think of it as a good thing instead of being offended by it. We also hope that it reminds management to take a personal interest in their employees. Think abstractly when it makes sense, but treat your employees like the valuable humans they are.

If you’re curious about how Meisterplan lets you manage resources, you can start a free 30 day trial. If you’d like to learn more about resource management, visit our blog.

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Meisterplan allows me to have a more productive conversation when determining the highest priority projects and also looking at the overall impact to the portfolio.

Nina McLaughlin

Program Manager | New Balance