Human Resources Glossary: 45 HR Vocabulary Definitions

Human Resources Glossary: 45 HR Vocabulary Definitions

Table of Contents

Buzzwords, jargon, HR vocabulary, oh my!

In the world of HR, there’s no shortage of industry-specific lingo. To help you get on the same page as your peers, we’ve put together a definitive HR glossary of terms to add to your lexicon.

HR vocabulary: Employee terms

Employee experience: An employee’s total experience (i.e., perceptions, emotional and intellectual stimulation, and challenges) of every touchpoint in their employee lifecycle, including career growth, workload, company culture, and relationships with peers, managers, and leadership.

Employee lifecycle: An HR model identifying the stages of an employee’s life at an organization from pre-hire to alumni. Stages include recruitment, onboarding, development, retention, and off-boarding.

Employee engagement: The quality of an employee’s feelings and their connection to your company, as well as the energy and effort they bring to the job day-to-day.

Employee satisfaction: How happy or fulfilled an employee is with their job. This encompasses satisfaction with the company as a whole, their team and manager, and their day-to-day work.

Non-traditional workers: Employees working in a field where 25% or less of their colleagues share their gender (nursing for men, firefighting for women).

Deskless workers: Workers who typically travel or work remotely from a mobile device, rather than on a laptop.

HR vocabulary: Industry terms

Strategic HR: A people management approach that actively supports higher-level business goals and objectives; a comprehensive framework for attracting, recruiting, developing, and retaining a talented workforce.

People analytics: Also called HR analytics, this data-driven approach collects and analyzes data on workers to help companies effectively manage employees and make organizational decisions.

People data: Also known as employee data, this term describes informative data collected about employees for analytics purposes.

Talent management: The practice of identifying the skills and talents needed to keep the organization moving toward its goals, plus hiring, developing, and retaining employees with those necessary skills and talents.

Change management: The process of communicating information about organizational changes, such as updated mission or policy, new hires or terminations, updates in leadership and management, new workplace tools, and more. Done well, change management is an opportunity to promote employee trust and engagement in the organization.

Psychological safety: The perception of the consequences of taking risks in particular settings – i.e., “Is it safe to fail here?” Organizations with cultures of strong psychological safety invite more bold initiatives and outside-the-box thinking from their employees.

Learning & Development (L&D): HR programming designed to improve individual and organizational performance by facilitating development or acquisition of skills and knowledge.

War for talent: Coined by McKinsey in 1997, this term refers to the competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees.

Growth mindset: The belief that people are not born with a static skillset: but rather, that new abilities can be learned and earned.

Retention: The rate at which a company retains employees.

Turnover: The rate at which employees leave the company.

HR vocabulary: Company terms

Core values: The guiding principles of an organization that help shape what work a company does and how they do it. These values can also act as a guiding light for the business in ambiguous or difficult situations.

Company mission: An organization’s purpose and reason for being: its ultimate goal. (i.e., “Bring affordable, sustainable broadband to rural communities.”)

Company vision: Where an organization envisions itself in the future when it achieves its mission. (i.e., “Be an international leader in the field by providing broadband services to 20% of rural communities worldwide.”)

Company culture: The personality of a company. Culture encompasses the work environment as well as values, ethics, expectations, models of communication and recognition, and more.

Organizational culture: Like company culture, organizational culture is the “personality” of an organization, informed by its values, mission, and beliefs.

Culture fit: The alignment between a company’s culture and the employee or initiative in question. (For example, at an organization comprised of feedback-driven Millennials, managers who prefer to give annual performance reviews may be a bad culture fit.)

Culture add: An employee or initiative that not only fits with the company culture but enhances or otherwise upgrades it. 

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I): Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) programming is designed to make the workplace welcoming and effective for all employees, regardless of sex, gender, race, sexuality, or ability.

Employee/corporate wellness: Wellness initiatives promote the health of individual employees for the health of the company as a whole. These may include fitness challenges, on-campus yoga classes or workout spaces, flu shots and vaccinations, and more.

HR vocabulary: Performance management (which we call “Goals & Feedback” here at WorkTango)

Goals & Feedback: The means by which your organization identifies, measures, and develops the workplace performance of each employee, team, and unit in support of your company’s overall goals and objectives.

Continuous performance management: The practice of holding continuous conversations around goals and feedback (i.e., Sync-Ups, mentoring, and Check-Ins) on a regular, ongoing basis throughout the year.

People management: Also known as human resource management. People management is part organizational support (i.e., recruitment and hiring, compensation, expertise on employee law, and more) and part employee support (communication assistance, performance management, benefits and resources, and more) – all to keep employees, and your organization, thriving.

1-on-1s: We call this a Sync-Up. It’s a private meeting in which a manager and an employee speak individually. Sync-Ups are valuable opportunities for participants to be heard and to align goals or strategies. Ideally, Sync-Ups should be casual and regular – about once a week or so.

Performance review: We call this a Check-In an opportunity to evaluate employee performance in the context of progress toward goals, working style and efficiencies, workplace behavior, and growth opportunities. We recommend doing performance Check-Ins at least once a quarter.

360 feedback: Feedback gathered from an employee, their peers, and their reports, as well as their managers. This allows employees to see what others collectively identify as their strengths and opportunities for growth.

Goals: The aim or end result of a person’s or organization’s effort. Each employee will have individual goals, as well as shared, team, or company goals. Their progress toward each is evaluated and optimized via Sync-Ups and Check-Ins.

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs): A goal-setting framework for creating a team- or company-wide objectives and measuring progress toward them.

HR vocabulary: Recognition

Employee recognition: The act of recognizing, praising, and rewarding positive employee accomplishments or behaviors, either publicly or privately. Recognition may be used to create a long-term sense of appreciation.

Employee appreciation: The overall sense that the employee is valued, professionally and personally, in the organization. Appreciation is less event-based than recognition, though the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Real-time recognition: Recognition provided in response to events as they occur, rather than during an annual review or quarterly employee appreciation event.

Peer-to-peer recognition: An opportunity for employees to publicly recognize their peers for successes or positive behaviors. Streamline peer-to-peer recognition with WorkTango’s recognition and rewards platform.

HR vocabulary: Surveys

Employee engagement survey: A survey measures not just employees’ satisfaction, but also their commitment to your organization’s mission, trust in leadership, and the value they place on their work.

eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score): An employee loyalty metric framed as the simple question, “On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend this organization as a good place to work?” Employees who respond with 9 or 10 are considered promoters; those who respond with a 6 or below are detractors. Your eNPS score is your percentage of promoters minus percentage of detractors. Generally, 10-30% is good, whereas 50% and above is considered outstanding.

Pulse: A quick, easy-to-answer survey that allows you to take an organizational “pulse check” by asking for ratings on statements such as, “I feel good about the feedback I receive,” and “I feel proud of the direction we’re going as a company.” These simple surveys can be performed as regularly as once a week.

Poll: Like a survey, but used to answer one specific question or a few simple questions on a single topic. Surveys may be wider-ranging.

Manager feedback surveys: Surveys gathering feedback from employees on managerial performance and effectiveness. Results may be provided to managers anonymously.

Ready to transform your HR experience? Let WorkTango lead the way.

Were these HR vocabulary definitions useful? We’re here to help.

Learn more