HR Terms You Did Not Know Existed: Building Your Human Resources Vocabulary

Monday, December 21
HR terms you did not know existed

Whether you’re an aspiring HR professional or you regularly communicate with that department, the right words are crucial. Without the correct terms, it becomes impossible to communicate your message accurately. When communication breaks down, misunderstandings occur, and everything else tanks, too. In this post, we will walk through some of the most commonly unknown or misunderstood HR terms.

Digging into the Terminology of HR

Attrition – This refers to the combination of different forces that result in a reduction to an organization’s workforce over time. Such forces include terminations, resignations, deaths, retirement, and much more. Tracking attrition is important for HR professionals, as it helps identify specific trends within the workforce while ensuring that recruiting efforts are in place to keep the organization above a minimum level when it comes to staffing.

Balanced Scorecard – This is a somewhat outdated term originally developed in the 1990s, but still used today in some HR departments. It implies accurate management and measurement across four different areas of the organization: customer knowledge, learning and growth, internal business processes, and financial performance.

Behavioral Competency – This is an evaluation of an individual employee’s character traits and behaviors. It encompasses a broad range of skills, as well, including achievement skills, people skills, and managerial skills. Note that what comprises “behavioral competency” can and does vary from organization to organization, and even from position to position within the same organization.

Benchmarking – This term focuses on measuring and assessing performance. It can be measured in any number of ways, and those will vary depending on the department, team, or even individual in question. Some of the benchmarking metrics used include customer satisfaction, cases processed, sales closed, customers retained, and more. Benchmarking scores are retained and used in future efforts to measure overall performance progress or regression.

Broadbanding – This refers to a type of pay structure that is becoming more and more common across the country. Instead of focusing pay grades on positional hierarchy, it is instead based on what the employee does within the organization, on their skills, and on how well they perform. It is an important tool in employee development and performance management, but it often correlates with a reduced chance to advance to higher positions within the organization.

Bumping – This term refers to an HR practice that involves giving employees whose current positions are being eliminated the chance to move to another position within the organization. They are “bumped” over, in essence. In many cases, the bump is lateral, or even slightly down, and may even include reduced pay. It also includes a nod to the fact that sometimes those positions are currently held by employees with less seniority, who will be “bumped” out of the position, and possibly out of the organization.

Change Management – This term is better-known than others on our list, but often not well understood. Change is a constant, for both businesses and individuals. Change management is the term given to the practice of transitioning from one state to another. For instance, from employment to retirement, or from a lower position to a higher position. When unmanaged, even positive change can create unwanted consequences. When managed correctly, it becomes simpler to handle and consequences do not have the same ramifications.

Disruptive Bargaining – Most bargaining within a business can be considered disruptive, as it revolves around a finite resource and when one party wins, the other loses. Disruptive bargaining can include things like bargaining for resources between departments, bargaining for better pay and benefits, such as between unionized workers and a business, and more.

Due Diligence – Due diligence is one of those terms that is thrown out regularly, but sometimes without a real understanding of its meaning. Simply put, it refers to the steps taken to ensure that something (an action, decision, etc. on the part of the business) complies with all relevant regulations and laws. For instance, during a merger or acquisition, the entire purchase or investment and all relevant details must be researched and investigated, all documentation must be completed and filed on time, and all elements must comply with specific rules and regulations.

Emotional Intelligence – Emotional intelligence is becoming more and more important in today’s business world. Simply put, an individual can recognize their emotional state accurately, and then manage it properly. Anyone working in HR should have high emotional intelligence. However, it is becoming an important “soft skill” for professionals throughout modern organizations.

Exit Interview – Exit interviews represent important opportunities for organizations to gain access to valuable information. When an employee leaves an organization, whether voluntarily, because of retirement, or because of termination, they should be interviewed as to work conditions, changes they would make, solutions to problems they may have in mind, and even the underlying reason for the employee’s decision to leave (if voluntary).

Gross Misconduct – This term can apply to behavior that ranges from bullying to sexual harassment, intoxication on the job, physical violence, and everything in between. When gross misconduct occurs, the immediate action is usually the termination of the employee.

Retention – Retention is the term applied to the process of ensuring that top talent remains with the organization. It can include a range of incentives, from promotions and raises to new benefits, and more. The benefits of retention are wide-ranging and include improved performance and productivity, better engagement, reduced costs related to recruiting and onboarding, and more.

Succession Planning – The last term on our list is one that’s not often discussed outside HR or the C-suite. It basically refers to the process of identifying long-term needs within the organization, and then cultivating in-house talent to fill those needs, supplemented by recruiting and onboarding new talent. Succession planning is cyclical and is closely tied to employee learning and development.

There you have them – some of the more interesting HR terms that you might not have known about, or may not have fully understood. With a better understanding of this terminology, accurate communication becomes possible.


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