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Blog: Does jargon really enhance HR's professional credibility?

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20th Mar 2012
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I have worked in HR since the mid 1990s and over the years have watched whilst the HR environment has become engulfed with jargon.  

Developments began in the 1990s where the term 'HR' overtook the term 'personnel' and came from the States. From the mid 1990s it seems the flood gates for HR jargon were opened.    The pure and simple role of HR Manager that used to mean approaching one individual for support with people management has, in general, become, in many large organisations, HR Business Partner - a role that sits within a framework alongside various generalists and specialists who are approached for support where the need lies.  If you have a problem with a disciplinary situation you talk to the Employee Relations Manager, if you want to discuss pay and benefits you need to discuss this with the Employee Reward Manager rather than your HR advisor. Where has the simplicity gone?    'Diversity' has become the term for what once was 'equal opportunities'. Equal opportunities looked at various pigeon-holed individuals eg disabled or coloured to ensure they had equality in all areas of employment. Diversity, however, is about valuing differences and uniqueness and being tolerant.  It does not focus on individuals but values everyone for who they are. Nevertheless discrimination in all its now extended forms is still rife in the UK demonstrated by employment tribunal statistics so what does that say about this development?    Employee engagement has become a hot topic. This is all about catching the imagination of employees so they love working for a company, work harder and ultimately increase profits. This tends to be linked with employee recognition which is deemed to be a communication tool that reinforces and rewards the most important outcomes people create for your business.  Employees, therefore, rather than just receiving informal praise for a job well done are now encouraged to perform for formal customised employee reward perks. The aim is that these processes make people feel valued, reduce turnover, increase employee empowerment and improve company culture.   Surely an employee is paid to do a good job so surely that is just reward anyway?    Knowledge management is a range of strategies and practices used in a company to identify, create, represent, distribute and enable adoption of ideas and experiences. Informal teaching/sharing processes that have always done have now been replaced by a formalised process where knowledge is captured via the management of competencies, best practice transfers and cross project learning, all of which are formally spread throughout an organisation to the benefit of all. Simple eh?     Talent management refers to the skills of attracting highly skilled workers, of integrating new workers, and developing and retaining current workers to meet current and future business objectives. What happened to good old fashioned recruitment and employee retention? Even the term recruitment has become resourcing.     Just lately I have seen the terms onboarding and orienteering being banded around, terms from the States.  Orienteering in the UK used to just mean “an outdoor adventure sport which involves walking or running whilst navigating around a course using a detailed map and sometimes a compass”.   Onboarding to me has nautical connotations and has nothing to do with employment. Why have these somewhat ridiculous terms started to replace the good old fashioned term of induction which is the process of formally guiding and introducing a new employee to people and processes in an organisation?     Instead of redundancy the terms downsizing or rightsizing are increasingly used.   Mergers and acquistions are known as TUPE transfers relating to the law The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (a legal mouthful in itself), which governs the transfer of employees from one company to another.    The list could go on.   HR has a hard enough job being understood anyway in the business world so why make things even more difficult? Instead of making HR seem to be “with it” in business aiming to exert an influence on proceedings, it seems ever more out of touch. How can HR be taken seriously if they cannot communicate in every day language?   I am a fan of good old fashioned plain English. When I provide advice on HR and employment matters I use clear practical language so my clients understand what they need to do. No-one has ever said to me “can you explain that more clearly or “I don’t know what you are talking about”. My small business clients would probably look at me as if I'd gone mad if I ever used the terms resourcing, orienteering or talent management to them.    So, in conclusion, although I am sure the jargon attached to HR processes will continue to develop, I personally do not believe it does anything to add to HR’s professional credibility.     Sandra Beale is an HR consultant at SJ Beale HR Consult. We welcome any and all contributions from the community, so please feel free to share your views and opinions with us, your colleagues and peers via our blogs section. 

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By kevinfriery
20th Mar 2012 12:32

I think Best Practice promotes a Strategic Fit between a Result-Driven Business and its Workforce Engagement policies.  Playing Hardball is not always the answer and there needs to be Synergy that Leverages a Win-Win situation through Proactive Empowerment.  If HR has a Game Plan it will ensure that its activities fall within the Ball Park and are seen as Value-Added.  We need to Think Outside The Box if we want to Fast-Track a Mindset that creates a Benchmark for others. We can only achieve this if we increase our Bandwidth and make sure we are not Out Of The Loop  in strategic development.  Perhaps we should start with a Gap Analysis.

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Sandra Beale, HR consultant
By sbeale
20th Mar 2012 16:09

Thanks.  You have given me some material to write a blog on HR jargon part 2.

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