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HR buzzwords redux

New terms relating to training and development, employer branding

By Brian Kreissl

I've written before about how we in human resources seem to have a penchant for creating new buzzwords and catch phrases to describe many of the concepts relating to our profession.

On the whole, I understand why this is the case because often the new terms seem to capture new developments and subtle nuances that differentiate the new terminology from the old. One example I’ve used in the past was employee onboarding — which differs considerably from traditional orientation in that it is more strategic, longer-term and holistic.

Different terms for training and development

However, at times the different terms can be confusing and sometimes even downright annoying. One example relates to what most HR practitioners refer to as training and development and the many different labels that exist for that particular discipline.

As most readers are probably aware, training refers more to learning that relates to an employee’s current role, and development is more about preparing individuals for future roles. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference.

Training and development also frequently encompasses different types of interventions beyond traditional classroom learning. Those activities include coaching, mentoring, on the job learning, simulations, e-learning and other types of facilitated and independent learning.

But I’m actually more interested in some of the other labels for that function. One label frequently used by specialists in this area is learning and development.

I suppose there's nothing wrong with that term because it recognizes how it might be a bit of a stretch to refer to many learning activities these days through the paradigm of “training.” In many ways, it's somewhat difficult to refer to self-directed, asynchronous learning as training, which tends to suggest traditional instructor-led classroom training.

But what about the term human resources development (HRD)? I could be wrong, but my perception is it seems a bit old school and perhaps not a term we tend to use much in North America.

While the actual definition of the term was something I was unsure of and wondered about for years, I finally looked it up today. Basically, HRD encompasses training and development along with organizational development, and possibly other concepts such as onboarding.

Therefore, it’s a broader term than training and development. It recognizes that the organization has a part to play and that learning and development should have an organizational component as well.

But surprisingly, there is another relatively new term for training and development I just found out about — workplace learning and performance. I suppose the performance part makes sense in a way, but is there really a need for yet another term to describe training and development?

Employer versus talent branding

I believe strongly in the concept of employer (or employment) branding. To me, considering the branding or image surrounding an organization and the perception of what it’s like to work there is a good way to attract and retain talent.

In the past, I have preached about the importance of ensuring perception matches with reality and branding the organization internally through HR programs that ensure employees are treated consistently with the organization's employer brand. I also talked about the need to ensure employer branding is kept real so that organizations aren't promoting themselves as an employer of choice when the reality is completely different.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that some of what I was referring to wasn’t even about employer branding but talent branding instead. According to some commentators, talent branding is different from employer branding and is more about reality than perception or marketing spin.

My understanding is talent branding is more internally focused and is really about how an organization’s workforce views the employment value proposition. It focuses on the experiences of employees rather than the perceptions of external candidates.

The idea is an organization’s talent brand should mesh with its employer brand. But I’ve been saying that for a while – even if I wasn’t using the term “talent branding.”

Did we really need a term for the internal part of employer branding? I would argue the existing term was broad enough to encompass the experiences of internal employees and that a proper employer branding strategy should include that. In other words, I don’t agree that employer branding is solely about hype, spin or promoting the organization to external candidates.

To me, new terminology only really makes sense where it adds something valuable to the debate.

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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