12 New HR Terms That Everyone Should Understand

May 30, 2023

Words matter. The right words can shape and drive the actions of an individual, a team, or an organization. With the ability to adapt to the ever-evolving terminology of the HR field and a strong grasp of emergent terms, HR and staffing professionals can improve the services they provide to their organizations.

churnover: a recurring opening in the same role or position in an organization due to the fact that new people hired into the role do not stay. Close investigation and analysis usually reveal a clear cause of churnover, which is often related to a bad manager or unrealistic job expectations. By measuring churnover as a subset of turnover, a company can reduce attrition and get to the root of the problem.

forwardfill: to hire for the future needs of a position (rather than backfill with a clone of the incumbent). Backfilling positions is a reactive talent management approach that at best maintains the current level of talent within the team. Forwardfilling is a mindset shift that challenges the hiring manager to think about a position’s future needs. Reviewing the job description and qualifications with an eye toward the evolution of the role yields a different hiring profile and candidate pool.

headcount freeze: holding the full-time equivalent (FTE) count neutral but continuing to recruit and hire. When organizations face tough times they often implement hiring freezes and shut off the recruitment pipeline, which damages the employment brand and leaves leaders having to play with the talent they have. A headcount freeze, on the other hand, keeps the recruitment motion in place and allows managers to replace underperformers with new hires, thus improving organizational performance while still maintaining cost control.

team timeout: a planned and mandatory team-building session focused on improving trust and team effectiveness. In sports, teams spend more time practicing than playing and during games will call for timeouts that can shift the momentum and be the difference between winning and losing. In business, though, teams rarely (if ever) call for timeouts, because too many leaders associate them with boondoggles or just fun team-building events. In fact, a well-planned team timeout provides an opportunity for the team to work on its dynamics by reflecting on what is working, what is not working, and what needs to change in order to enhance performance. Surprisingly, organizations are most reluctant to call for a team timeout when times are tough even though those are the times that it can have the greatest impact.

riptide effect: a strategic decision to embrace (rather than fight) the current and to shift strategy to align with market conditions and move the organization forward. Embracing change is difficult, but the sooner an organization recognizes that resisting it is the worse strategy and starts to “go with the flow,” the sooner it can begin to move forward. The shift that sales organizations have made from being geographically aligned to being vertically aligned is one example of this approach.

microleadership: (This is a term for an approach that does not actually exist.) Asking micromanagers to differentiate between managing and leading often piques their interest and opens up a conversation on this subject. Most people would rather be viewed as leaders rather than managers, and most employees would certainly rather be led than be managed. Learning now to empower their employees can help managers become leaders.

crossboarding: the act of onboarding and assimilating an internal employee transfer. When an employee changes jobs to a new department, a new function, or a new manager within the same organization, an onboarding process should be implemented to ensure their success in the new role. A move between teams or departments can be exciting for some employees and traumatic for others. In either case, a well-orchestrated move will set the employee up for success in the new role and help them feel happy and engaged and willing to provide discretionary effort.

kryptonite: something that makes someone vulnerable. This term offers a useful frame for discussing failure and vulnerability. Superman tells the world that kryptonite is his weakness because he believes in humanity’s goodness and is confident that by sharing his weakness with the world, more people will shield him from it than use it against him. Once a leader realizes the low risk in being more open about their kryptonite, the more they come to realize that transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability are seen by others as strengths rather than weaknesses.

career scaffold: a replacement for the career ladder in which lateral growth is more important and more effective than vertical development. Organizations that embrace career development opportunities for their employees, find ways to rotate people often, and create cultures in which lateral moves are seen as equally enriching as vertical moves tend to have higher engagement and retention rates. A ladder has an end point or a top, whereas a scaffold can grow infinitely, and just as the maximum height of a scaffold is determined by the breadth of its base or foundation, a person’s career trajectory is determined by the breadth of their experiences: the more lateral moves they make, the stronger the foundation they have—which in the long run will allow them to progress more. Few organizations have embraced this new concept and embedded it into the learning and development plans for their employees.

accordion effect: the idea that just as an accordion makes music while expanding and contracting, a company can drive success while centralizing or decentralizing. Businesses follow a rhythm that’s determined by the market landscape and external economic conditions. Companies adjust their strategies and resources to try to stay in tune with the changing business climate. Market conditions are always evolving, and the best organizations recognize the need to evolve not just their business strategy but their organizational structure as well in order to retain an innovative and dynamic culture that is positioned to capitalize on opportunities.

mental fitness: the use of executive coaching to focus on emotional intelligence, accountability, and alignment. The role of a personal trainer and the role of an executive coach have a lot in common, but many view executive coaching as a negative, whereas a personal trainer is always seen as a positive. There should be no negative stigma around executive coaching, which can help leaders become more effective by shifting the focus of coaching within their organizations from remedial to performance enhancing.

healthy tension: a way to reframe conflict, which can lead to better decisions but gets a bad rap. A paradigm shift that recognizes conflict as opportunity can have a dramatically positive impact on how conflict is addressed: instead of trying to avoid conflict, organizations can embrace it as a powerful decision-making tool. A common—and dangerous—outcome of avoiding conflict is group think that leads teams and organizations to make decisions that are contrary to the decisions that members of the team or organization would make on their own. Also, there is a correlation between the level of engagement and the amount of conflict that exists in an organization: too little conflict signals a lack of engagement, but too much conflict could decrease engagement. Therefore it is important to strike a happy balance between the two.

For additional information about each of these concepts, visit groovemanagement.com.

Written by: Brian Formato

Subscribe to HR Connection

HR Connection Subscribe