Keep it simple stupid

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HR Coordinator, HR Advisor, HR Manager, Performance and Culture Advisor, People and Talent Manager, Culture Manager, Acquisition and Talent Director the list of ever changing HR titles in the workplace goes on and on. What do they mean? What do these people actually do on a daily basis? To some it no doubt sounds like gobbledy gook – something made up.

So too HR terminology. Strategic workforce planning, transformational HR, organisational culture, employee engagement, talent identification and succession planning, training fatigue, institutional knowledge…to name a few.  For those of us actively working in or closely with HR (or otherwise named departments with same or similar functions), we know what we’re talking about when using these terms. But what about everyone else? To the rest of the company are we again speaking something of a foreign language with our jargon?

I participate regularly, or as regularly as life allows in twitter chats and the like on all manner of subjects HR related. I find it a fantastic way to extend my own knowledge of the construct, at the same time building and growing networks with like-minded people. Something I’ve been struck with through the course of this is that even people within the same industry can have very different ideas about what these things mean, how they work and what they represent. And I think often it’s a result of them growing and changing to keep up with an ever evolving world of work.

I’m taken back to a past life where I was a sailing instructor. The confused looks I got from first time groups of students when I referred to sheets and halyards, port and starboard as opposed to what they knew as ropes and left and right, quickly taught me to adapt my language to something they knew, understood and felt familiar with. The red rope meant so much more to them than the gib sheet. I had to bring it back to their level.

Perhaps this is something we as HR should consider for the rest of the organisations we work in? Perhaps through breaking what we know well, down to a basic level the rest of the organisation would achieve a better understanding of what we stand for and are trying to achieve. I think this will become increasingly important through HR’s continuous battle for a seat at the top table (and here it works twofold as HR’s need for a greater understanding of the business grows) and for those in HR trying to change the HR construct and shake it up for the future. 

Now I’m not saying we stop changing titles and terminology or do away with them at all, as by and large I think something along the lines of the emerging “Talent and Culture” is a much more apt term for HR. The former implying that organisations actually value and care for their employees, whereby the later implies they are simply “resources” – a means to an end in business. I’m simply saying that when it comes to the rest of the organisation I’m reminded of the old KISS acronym used time and again by those in HR and related disciplines, Keep It Simple Stupid.


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