Pass the dictionary, please (Editorial)

Outplacement, presenteeism, emotional intelligence, strategic HRM, BPO, LTD and STD, DB versus DC, HRMS. If you recognize all or some of these terms chances are you’re in HR.

While every profession throws up a confusing mix of industry jargon, HR has a particular interest in keeping the buzz terms to a minimum. So with all due respect to consultants and authors, putting a break on runaway “phrase-coining” is in the best interests of employers and employees alike. HR is after all charged with employee communications, and often external communications, so there’s a responsibility to keep it simple.

While the IT department can be forgiven for a plethora of linguistic challenges to explain its systems, HR acronyms and buzz words do little to help staff understand the business or open communication channels across an organization.

Many HR terms have value, such as “presenteeism,” which describes workers who are on the job but far from productive due to physical or mental reasons. But many others are merely contrived inventions. Here are a few examples that recently landed in Canadian HR Reporter’s inbox.

From a recruitment firm’s white paper comes “employee onboarding.” Apparently “orientation” no longer captures the act of getting new staff up to speed.

Then there’s a study on “WFM.” Anyone familiar with this one? It stands for “Workforce Management,” and note that this term gets uppercasing. (Next time around all the letters will be uppercased and “WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT” will be trademarked, so don’t use it without mentioning the term’s originator or you’ll get a legal notice.)

How about “DMA?” That’s from a new book, The Healthy Organization, which finds the need to create an acronym for “decision-making accountability.” So, if your WFM plan includes an employee onboarding strategy with increased DMA, congratulations you’re on the cutting edge.

For those still in the dark, so to speak, there is help out there. Carswell explains “the new lexicon of training” in its Best Practices: Training & Development publication, and there’s a glossary of terms in its Benefits Guide. The International Foundation of Employees Benefit Plans’ handbook has 2,500 terms and 800 acronyms. Confused about outsourcing terms, there’s a glossary from the Society for Human Resource Management that explains BPO, BTO and HRO (hint: they all end with “outsourcing”). For the still confused, there’s the 824-page Human Resources Glossary, 3rd edition, or perhaps a complete set of textbooks from Nelson’s Series in Human Resources Management would help.

But all the above on a shelf in the HR department will still likely leave practitioners with a few terms to track down. In addition to all the HR management terms and necessary pensions and benefit terms thanks to the accounting profession, there’s the fact HR finds itself involved with the legal profession — everything from contract negotiations to termination suits — and can find itself inundated with legalese at any moment.

HR technology has its own blend of HR and IT-speak.

Plus there’s payroll, employment standards, health and safety and labour legislation and all the subsequent language contained in federal and provincial acts governing these aspects of the workplace, all written as clear as mud.

It’s enough to make you wonder why you got your CHRP.

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