Talk Like an HR Trendsetter (and know what it means)

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Oct 17, 2018
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

Buzzwords. For better or worse, these are part of HR life. Just when you feel like you have the jargon and acronyms down, you take a short vacation and return to discover the rest of the team is speaking another language.

By trade, HRs are required to be commanders of the written and spoken word; knowing exactly what not to say is as important as finding the right words for the right situation. Meanwhile, there’s management speak for the boardroom, simple explainers for training, binding clauses for policy documents and, now, emerging terms for evolving HR technology.

How to make sense of it all? Here is your handy guide to today’s trending HR technobabble. We’ve included links to relevant TLNT articles on each subject so when the word comes up in conversation, you won’t be left out:

Agile HR — Agile is a working method borrowed from the software world that sees teams responding quickly, collaboratively and democratically to change, rather than adopting an old-fashioned resource allocation approach. Agile HR teams can adapt fast to whatever comes at them, and turn the unexpected to their advantage. Nothing whatsoever to do with backflips.

Algorithms — Who runs the world? Computer algorithms, many would argue. Think of an algorithm as a step-by-step instruction manual for a computer program. It’s a set of rules and calculations that computers use to make decisions or solve problems. In HR they are already being used to add science and data to human judgement, identifying the most talented recruits, those least engaged and those most at risk of leaving.

Artificial intelligence — Intelligent machines that can learn, adapt and display other behaviors normally associated with humans, like social skills and manipulation. Think Blade Runner. In HR, machine intelligence is viewed with extreme caution, with many believing AI cannot replace human emotional traits like empathy and intuition. But science tells us this belief is wrong: machines can already simulate emotion. AI is being increasingly used for improving the recruitment and hiring processes and dealing with high volumes of candidate data.

Big data — The volume of data being created and stored everyday is inconceivable. The velocity with which data is processed is expanding, and the variety of formats that data can be turned into is growing. These 3 Vs define big data, which is so voluminous and complex it cannot be processed on any normal scale. Most HR professionals will only ever deal with their own organization’s data, as the private nature of employee data means it can never be made public. That said, if the health sector can do it, by consolidating patient data anonymously through Apple’s iOS Health app for example, think what businesses could learn by contributing to and mining an anonymous HR big data pot.

Blockchain — Blockchain is more commonly associated with payments and capital markets, specifically cryptocurrency, where it is used to track the value of the money and make sure transactions are documented and valid. Blockchain is now being rolled out into other areas. Imagine never having to request an employee’s résumé ever again because there is a permanent digital record you can access to view their entire employment history. This makes it almost impossible for workers to cheat or commit fraud when applying for jobs, as changing one record requires alterations and access to all previous ones. Data cannot be stolen as it is all stored in fragmented forms on multiple different servers across the world. The potential is huge.

Co-workingThe coming together of local telecommuters, consultants, micro business owners and freelancers in perfect harmony, working side-by-side in a friendly, open-plan workspace with fantastic coffee. Staves off loneliness and cabin fever and creates opportunities for collaboration. None are colleagues but all are comrades.

Digital workplace — Picture your workplace. Now take away the building. Give all the staff laptops and smartphones. Connect them virtually through the internet and give them clever apps to do their jobs even more efficiently. Let them chat, share, engage, collaborate on projects in real time. This is a digital workplace — a virtual equivalent of a physical workplace. It allows for entirely new ways of working without compromising productivity, culture or engagement.

Gamification — Teachers have been doing this in classrooms for years — holding children’s attention with games. For some reason, when this is done with technology for adults, we give it a fancy new name. You take a process that already exists and transform it with game mechanics into something engaging, like quizzes to test knowledge after a training course. All the while, these games can tell businesses who is most and least engaged, or whether a training course is too easy or difficult.

Generation Z — Gen Zers were born between the mid 1990s and mid 2000s and grew up with smartphones and social media at their fingertips. This is the generation that came after millennials. They are viewed as entrepreneurial, less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than older age groups, and grew up using apps that cost less than a packet of chips. They also know how to use Snapchat.

Industry 4.0 — First was the industrial revolution, then electricity, computing and, now, the cyber-physical world of the fourth industrial revolution. It’s all about humans and machines communicating and cooperating with each other to reach new levels of productivity and efficiency through automation. Naturally, it has already sparked fears that humans will be rendered redundant. Surely the ultimate goal should be to let the machines make the money, pay ourselves generous salaries, and go and enjoy all that life has to offer?

Internal social media (ISM) — An HBR study found that remote workers can feel shunned and left out. The modern workforce loves transparency, engagement and to feel included, so a social platform for departments and teams to interact, communicate and share information is a no-brainer. Picture Facebook, but with more work talk and fewer weird posts from your Great Aunt Edith.

Predictive analytics – – Also known as people analytics, this links back to big data (see above). Data is used to make predictions about what will happen in the future. You can use this to create a metric for working out what qualities make for the best new hires, look at trends and insights down to the individual employee and even install software that can make policy suggestions based on existing data. Predictive analytics move HR away from slow, manual processes and into making quick, well-grounded decisions to solve problems before they even arise.

Millennial — Also known as Generation Y, the oldest millennials are now in their mid-thirties. This is the largest generation in the U.S. labor force and they can already be found in senior positions high up the business food chain. This generation started their careers in the depths of the global credit crunch, and value ethical and sustainable business. They also love avocados and brunch.

Unified communications — The integration of different forms of communication, such as text, voice and video into one system. There are obvious benefits to combining all the different comms apps – the main one being that all shared content is easily searchable, because it’s not fragmented.

Remote onboarding — Bringing new recruits into the fold virtually. Often employed in digital workplaces, remote onboarding might involve live webchats and training via video tutorials on e-learning platforms. A must for those employees who work remotely 100% of the time.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.