These two words are very easily confused because they both refer to people and begin with the base word of person. However, they are different. Listen to the pronunciation of the words and hear the difference in the emphasis on the first and last syllable of each word. Personal stress ‘per’ is about the individual and personnel stress ‘nel’ is about the people employed in a company or business.
Personal is an adjective describing items that belong to a person. In banking your own account is a personal account for instance or a sports fanatic may have a personal trainer. It could be an action taken by someone as in a personal appearance or a commitment to a personal diet. In all these instances the word personal refers to the person’s own intent. The adjective personal describes private items not for public knowledge or consumption. The personal column in the newspaper advertises private jobs or information. Personal is derived from the Latin personalise meaning – pertaining to a person. In the movie ‘Up Close and Personal’ the heroine as a news broadcaster receives some very personal help to boost her career as a public figure. The personal help enables her to become a star on the journey she takes as a member of the TV station’s personnel.
Personnel, on the other hand, are the group of people that works for a business or company. Larger business’ will have a Personnel Department to look after the needs of the personnel and make sure that the people employed are re-numerated correctly and registered under the company’s rules and regulations for their employees and their contracts. The Personnel Department is often called the Human Resources department because it deals with all matters relating to the employees. The personnel department is also the section of the office or factory where an employee would go to sign in or out for time sheets and other aspects of being one of the personnel. It is important for the well- being of the company to have a committed group of personnel.
Henry Ford, one of the original forward thinking employers in the motor industry, treated his personnel very well. In a time of financial depression he raised his staff salaries to a high of $5 per hour from the basic wage of $2, 34 per hour. This radical move ensured the commitment of his work force and at the same time enabled his personnel to be able to afford to buy his new middle class vehicle, the Ford Model T. Henry Ford wanted his factory workers to be able to buy the car they were making. It was a clever move that ultimately pushed up his sales and at the same time ensured a happy team of personnel working for the opportunity to one day own their own personal factory made car. Henry Ford, ahead of his time in personnel management encouraged everyone with this well-known saying:
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.”
It was with these words that he added the personal touch to encourage his personnel.