By Jessica Miller-Merrell 

The role of human resources and recruiting are the two most misunderstood jobs in companies and among today’s workforce. Most employees think we are simply responsible for hiring and firing, managers believe we are the workplace police, executives think we are only there for compliance purposes and candidates see us as phone screeners. There’s so much more to what we do than people see and the truth is that our jobs are critical to the company.
Our industry has come a long way to prove that we are much more than, if not at all like, those stereotypes, but even we are to blame for perpetuating some of these ideas. One way we do this is by using terminology that others don’t understand or see negatively.
These terms, or HR speak as I like to call it, add to the assumption that we are just recruiting order takers or HR folks who serve as the workplace hand-washing referee. This year, I’ll be working on wiping these five terms from my vocabulary and replacing them with more user-friendly phrasing. Care to join?
Talent management
Talent management is really a fancy way of saying we’re maintaining the hierarchy that’s been in place for years and choosing who will be next to climb that ladder. It perpetuates an old-school idea that someone needs to be groomed and that without our constant evaluation and recommendations, people would never develop into leaders and receive promotions. It’s stuck up and outdated.
Human capital
We use this word to talk about the value a person brings to the organization but it winds up sounding like we view people as assets rather than human beings. An individual employee’s influence or impact is hard to measure, but we should speak about them as people, not objects.
Employee or human relations
Employees often believe that HR departments only advocate for the organization’s agendas, and it’s sad but these terms conjure up that image. The truth is, HR professionals support the business and serve as a mediator between employer and employee, so perhaps new phrasing will reflect that.
Talent acquisition
The word acquisition sounds like you’re purchasing office equipment. Attach it to “talent” and you’ve created an image of buying and trading people. The hiring process is so much softer and more complex than the word “acquisition” implies.
High Potential
Often times, our criteria of labeling employees as high potential is no different than providing one test to hundreds of people and expecting it to analyze the many nuanced strengths and weaknesses. It’s not possible because everyone has their own talents and skills. It might help you with “talent management” (see above) but the reward of someone receiving this label isn’t worth the dip in morale you’ll experience from everyone around them.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s the Chief Blogger and Founder of Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmillermerell.

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