Remove These Five Words from Your Department

Gina Deveney
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Like any sector, human resources is rife with buzzwords. After years of enthusiastic use, these once-popular words become so diluted that they lose all meaning. What's worse, they reduce your HR department to a jargon-filled cliché. By making an effort to eliminate overused words, you can add clarity and humanity to your interpersonal communications.

1. Acquisition

The word "acquisition" has worked its way into human resources departments. You might see the phrases "talent acquisition" or "HR acquisition" to describe the process of finding new employees. While "talent acquisition" might sound more dramatic than "hiring," it takes the human element out of the process. Acquisitions refer to buying things — not people.

2. Talent

Another of the most overused words in human resources is "talent." Often, HR staff use it as a way to categorize employees. You might hear a recruiter referring to "the talent" when speaking about current or potential workers. Many departments use "talent management" to describe the way the company attracts, engages and retains excellent people. By using a generic word to describe your employees, however, you objectify them and create an impersonal atmosphere.

3. Engagement

It's no secret that engaged employees are an enormous benefit to a company. Realizing this, many human resources departments have latched on to the word "engagement" and used it so enthusiastically that it no longer carries its original weight. If you need proof, mention "employee engagement" to a colleague and watch his eyes glaze over. Instead of using this blanket term, talk about the specific onboarding, training programs and incentives you use to keep your best workers happy.

4. Value-Add

Like many buzzwords, the term "value-add" has its roots in a useful concept. The snappy-sounding phrase is used to describe employees, new programs, initiative outcomes and even work experience on job applicants' resumes. A common variation is "added value." The term is nonspecific and communicates nothing other than a general positive reaction. A better option is to quantify or describe the value as it relates to the needs of your company.

5. Corporate Culture

Human resources professionals love to talk about corporate culture. They extol the virtues of the culture to potential employees and discuss ways to improve it with other HR workers. The term is so overused that it often defies definition. If you must use "corporate culture," include specific examples that help your audience understand how it applies to your organization. Rather than talking about the "great corporate culture," mention the regular staff lunches, the open communication or the friendly working environment.

At their best, buzzwords add nothing to the conversation in a human resources department; at their worst, they can confuse and frustrate employees. When you replace these meaningless words with more concrete, relatable terms, you can get your message across without sounding robotic and inhuman.


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