What Is Personnel Management?

Definition & Examples of Personnel Management

Manager speaking with an employee at a table.
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 kate_sept2004

Personnel management involves the administrative tasks that address the hiring and compensation of a company's employees. As a discipline, it aims to recruit and retain the quality workforce necessary for an organization to meet its goals.

Find out more about personnel management and how it works.

What Is Personnel Management?

Personnel management refers to the business functions that deal with people, whether it's hiring them, paying them, or training them.

However, personnel management is a term that is falling into disuse, replaced by (or used interchangeably with) the phrase "human resources management." A company's human resources are its personnel—the people who are its employees. To manage them, many companies today no longer have personnel departments and instead have human resources departments.

Human resources management is often viewed as the strategic, effective management of a company's people, understanding them to be a company's most valuable resource. As such, prioritizing their development and success is vital to the success of the company as a whole.

Some consider personnel management to be more administrative in scope—focused on forms and paperwork—while human resources management more broadly endeavors to develop an organization's people and its culture.

For example, recruitment under a personnel management department might simply match job candidates and their resumes to a list of desired qualifications, checking off boxes in a list. But in a human resources department, hiring may be done by hiring specialists who have an in-depth understanding of the company's goals and requirements, sourcing hires who not only have the required skills but are also a great culture fit.

Or, in the case of new hire orientation, the focus of a personnel management department might be to ensure the paperwork is completed and filed properly, whereas a human resources department would ensure that the new hire felt sufficiently briefed as to their duties and responsibilities, focusing on setting up the employee for success. New employee orientation might even include a formal mentoring program. Or, it might involve opportunities for a meet-and-greet so the new employees get to know people they will be working with as well as those in different departments. 

Whether personnel management and human resources management are different in scope or interchangeable terms often depends on the organization's own viewpoint.

Government agencies and nonprofit organizations often still use the term personnel management to describe the administrative tasks associated with managing their employees.

  • Alternate name: Human Resource Management 

How Does Personnel Management Work?

An organization's personnel management department typically is responsible for overseeing the administrative requirements of its employees.

Personnel management is typically responsible for:

  • Recruiting
  • Hiring
  • Determining wages and salaries
  • Administering benefits
  • Providing employee incentives
  • New employee orientation
  • Training and development
  • Performance appraisals

A company's office of personnel management may also be responsible for mediating disputes, developing and enforcing workplace policies, such as those that govern attendance, and ensuring company compliance with state and federal law.

For example, at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the government department responsible for managing federal employees, key functions include vetting potential new hires, developing human resources policies, and administering benefits such as pensions and health care. The department ensures oversight of various systems to make sure employees are in compliance with regulations and handles the adjudication of appeals when things go wrong.

Becoming a personnel manager or human resources manager usually takes several years of experience plus a bachelor's degree and, in some cases, a master's degree. However, this occupation is expected to grow by 7% over the next decade and brings a median salary of $116,720.

Key Takeaways

  • Personnel management includes the administrative tasks required to oversee an organization's employees, such as recruiting, hiring, and administering benefits.
  • The term personnel management is more likely to be found in nonprofits and government agencies; the term human resource management may be more common in the private sector.
  • Personnel management is sometimes viewed as the more administrative functions related to completing paperwork and similar prosaic tasks, in contrast to a view of human resources management as a comprehensive development of an organization's people and culture.
  • Personnel management is necessary whenever there are employees to oversee.

Article Sources

  1. The Oxford Handbook of Human Resource Management. "Human Resource Management: Scope, Analysis, and Significance," Page 2. Accessed Aug. 5, 2020.

  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Human Resources Managers." Accessed Aug. 5, 2020.