The Definitive Guide to HR Terminology for Leaders

HR glossary

The human resources industry is full of jargon. Sometimes it can feel like HR professionals are speaking a different language. If you're new to the HR field, or you're looking for a refresher on HR terminology, this guide is for you.

  • HR Management- often abbreviated as HRM, this is a business organization’s human resources department. Their main functions are hiring, firing, and managing the employees, the workplace, and the processes. They keep things running smoothly and ensure best practices are followed that benefit everyone in the organization. 
  • Leadership Development- training to develop essential leadership skills that will benefit the organization as a whole. With effective leadership development, there is an increase in productivity that bolsters revenue and reaches the bottom line. 
  • PeopleOps: People operations, also known as PeopleOps or people management, is the director of the workforce and talent management at a company. People Ops is the stuff inside people operations: HR, talent acquisition, payroll, benefits, payroll, benefits, and compensation.
  • Talent Acquisition: often abbreviated as TA, talent acquisition focuses on acquiring external candidates to fill jobs. This may be internal, or external such as with a recruiting agency partner.
  • Recruiting- the process of discovering potential employees and leading them through hiring. Recruiting encompasses multiple aspects such as interviewing, selection, and onboarding.
  • Talent Management- In HR, talent management is the development and running of a productive workforce. Talent management includes building a long-term team that is devoted to the organization and ensures greater productivity and performance. 
  • Talent Development- With talent development, the HR team identifies each team member's skills and talents to build them and create more benefits for the organization. It is also used to identify new skills that can be trained and honed for the overall success of the business. 
  • Employee Development Plan - Employee development plans are focused on the overall development of an employee’s skills. The purpose of these plans is to develop skills in each employee that are cohesive with the goals of the organization. They are often chosen to fill in skill gaps in the organization. 
  • Career Development- each employee’s personal plan for career growth. It focuses on areas they would like to grow in and has their own specific career goal in mind. 
  • HR Metrics- these specific metrics are key because they measure and track important data relevant to an organization. This helps HR teams monitor how effective their initiatives are and determine if they should make any adjustments. 
  • HR Analytics- often referred to as people analytics or workforce analytics, it is the use of data to ensure the department is running optimally and that the most effective and productive decisions are being made. It enables teams to predict, inform, decide, and train.
  • HR Technology- HR tech encompasses all of the technology used by HR teams for various business functions. These functions include time and attendance, payroll, benefits, recruitment, and more.
  • Hybrid Work- The hybrid work model includes an organization where teams work both in the office and remotely. HR is responsible for providing oversight and management of hybrid teams, including work processes, functioning, and more. 
  • Distributed Teams- With distributed teams, employees are remote and often work from a variety of geographical locations. Most employees are remote and spread around, while some may occasionally perform hybrid work and head into a physical office. 
  • HR Certification- An HR certification is an effective way to both demonstrate and measure each HR professional’s knowledge, skill, and commitment. Certificates can be used for promotions, to stand out from other professionals, and to help keep the HR team up to date. 
  • Employee Experience- The employee experience (EX) makes up everything the employee experiences from their first day on the job to their last. It includes hiring, onboarding, training, workplace culture, management, and incentives. It’s important because it helps build a strong and loyal team for the organization. 
  • Employee Experience Transformation-  Employee experience transformation refers to the HR team intentionally working towards enhancing the employee experience. The transformation includes the use of analytics to understand the current employee experience and how to make changes to increase the satisfaction of employees. 
  • Employee Experience Platform: a technology platform that captures employee data and provides people analytics. It is a central repository of employee data that tracks an employee's lifecycle with the company, from onboarding to offboarding. An EX platform collects data on employee engagement, performance, feedback, compensation, and more. It is a single source of truth that can be used to make data-driven decisions to improve employee experience.
  • Employee Engagement Score: a metric that assesses how invested your employees are in contributing to your company's success. While various factors can affect this score, it is primarily influenced by emotions and relationships. The score is not determined by perks and events, such as pizza parties or book clubs, but by fostering connections and shared purpose among employees.
  • DEIAB (Diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging)- HR focuses on DEIAB, and creating an environment that operates on these principles.
    • Diversity is the presence of difference. Who is here? 
    • Equity is the fair and just treatment for all. Whose needs are met?
    • Inclusion is encouraging and embracing difference. Who is heard?
    • Accessibility is Openness to all. Who can participate?
    • Belonging is the identification with a community. Who feels welcome? 
  • JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) - JEDI is an acronym for inclusivity in the workplace. It focuses on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and comfortable, with no discrimination. 
  • Workplace Culture- culture in the workplace is the overall feeling and experience of workers in the organization. It is typically made up of management practices, behaviors of team members, policies of the organization, and the various amenities that the workplace has for employees. 
  • Skills-based Hiring- Skill-based hiring is a hiring approach being used by more and more organizations. It focuses on the potential employees’ experience and abilities instead of their degrees and where they went to college. Skills-based hiring often includes skills testing during the hiring process.  
  • Employee Relations- When it comes to employee relations, HR is responsible for preventing and resolving any disputes or issues that arise between employees and management. They also help to create rules and policies that minimize issues and ensure workplace equality. 
  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGS)- These are groups that are led by employees and are entirely voluntary to join. They work towards building an inclusive and diverse workplace. These groups are supported by the organization, typically through HR. 
  • Behavioral Interviews- In behavioral interviews, potential hires are asked to describe a certain situation in a previous job and how they dealt with it. This allows interviewees to showcase themselves as an employee, while also giving the HR team a chance to hear about the potential employee in action. 
  • Returning Workers- A returning worker is one who was away from work for some time, often due to illness, injury, or furlough, and is now returning. HR facilitates the return-to-work process to ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace. 
  • Digital HR- In digital HR, innovative technology, analytics, and digital processes are used and monitored instead of traditional processes. Workflow and processes are streamlined and automated, making things more efficient. Typically digital HR uses cloud and SaaS technology. 
  • Employee Retention- Employee retention refers to the rate at which employees remain with an organization. Organizations can work to create a desirable workplace culture to boost retention. This typically includes ensuring a positive work environment, employee appreciation, and great pay/benefits. 
  • Employee Turnover- The turnover rate is a measurement that looks at how many people leave an organization during a specified time period, often annually. Understanding employee departure helps HR determine changes that should be in place to reduce turnover and increase retention. 
  • HR Generalist- In HR, a generalist is a professional with a wide range of HR skills and functions. Instead of focusing on one pinpointed area, they typically handle multiple entry-level tasks. 
  • HR Manager- The HR manager is a human resources supervisor who monitors HR professionals and their tasks each day. They implement strategies and guide their HR team for the overall benefit and growth of the organization. 
  • Chief People Officer- The chief people officer is a corporate officer. They oversee the entire HR department, including management, policies, and practices. 
  • HR Assistant- An HR assistant helps the HR manager with their tasks, including payroll, benefits, and recruitment. They are an essential component of the functioning of both the HR department and the organization as a whole. 
  • Human Resources Consultant- An HR consultant does multiple tasks, such as training, educating, consulting, and providing HR solutions for organizations. This position includes researching, analyzing, and counseling management for more effective processes and solutions. 
  • Human Resources Business Partner- An HR business partner works with an organization for the overall improvement of HR functions and processes. Their tasks typically include the creation of agendas and leading HR teams to achieve certain results. 
  • PEO (Professional Employer Organization)- PEO is comprehensive HR outsourcing. Organizations that do not need or want a full in-house HR team can outsource certain elements of HR to another company. Often businesses outsource payroll, benefits, and even recruitment, instead of taking care of them in-house. 
  • Future of Work- The future of work (FoW) is an overall look at how things could change in the workplace in the coming years. The ideas consider advances in technology as well as society. Considering these things help organizations develop better processes and a more streamlined workplace that moves them and their employees more seamlessly into the future. 
  • Four-Day Workweek- The idea of the four-day workweek came about in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. By moving to a four-day workweek, companies can increase the work-life balance of their teams and create a happier and more productive workplace. 
  • Workplace productivity & Time to Productivity- Productivity in the workplace is a basic measurement of the efficiency of the team as a whole each day. It doesn’t simply look at how fast things are getting done, but also if the essential things are getting done. 
  • Cultural Fit- this explores the idea that people who fit within a company are more successful for that company. It also considers the idea that those who at the outset seems to be the best fit are not always. Thus, cultural fit is more about those with adaptability than those with what appears to be immediate fit-ness.
  • Attrition- Attrition refers to terminations (both voluntary and involuntary), retirements, and deaths, all of which lead to a reduction in employees within an organization. Understanding and keeping track of attrition is important for HR teams.
  • Chief People Officer (CPO)- The chief people officer (CPO) is a corporate title for the executive who heads up an organization's human resources (HR) department.

The HR industry is full of jargon. We hope you enjoyed this HR Glossary, which breaks down commonly used HR terms and phrases. It was created to help those seeking leadership and People roles in human resources, from students to executives, in order to better understand HR industry terminology.

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Posted on November 10, 2022 in ,

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