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Someone e-mailed me the following question:

Are the words staff and personnel interchangeable? I encounter them from the weekly reports that I receive. The dictionary seem to have the same meaning for these two words.

Staff and personnel mean the same thing when they refer to people employed in an organization.

Some differences:

  1. Personnel is always a noun and can mean only the people employed, but staff has other meanings (like the stick that the shepherd uses in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd, His rod and his staff, they protect me…”). Staff can also be a verb.
  2. Personnel is always plural. Staff can be singular (if taken as one unit, one group, referring to the whole) or plural (referring to the individuals)

These are the definitions given by Oxford-American Dictionary:

staff  |staf|
noun
1 [treated as sing. or pl. ] all the people employed by a particular organization : a staff of 600 | hospital staff were not to blame.
• the teachers in a school or college : [as adj. ] a staff meeting.

personnel |ˌpərsəˈnel|
plural noun
people employed in an organization or engaged in an organized undertaking such as military service compare with materiel : : many of the personnel involved require training | sales personnel.
• short for personnel department .

Photo credit: Sudbury Jobs

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