I was interviewed by a company for a series they were putting together for employers that are looking to attract and retain entry-level candidates. The interview went great and I think I delivered what they expected. However, the interviewer made an interesting comment as I was answering her questions. What she said didn’t surprise me but it did confirm some things I’ve been thinking regarding the usage of buzzwords.
Her comment was ” wow, this is great information- this is what we have been looking for- someone who speaks in plain english rather than using buzzwords.” Of course, flattery will get you every where with me, but clearly she has been searching for someone to tell it like it is without every other word being a buzzword.
In HR, the buzzwords of the moment are “agile” “big data” “thought leader”, “strategic”, “authentic”, “transparency” “human capital” and of course there is your usual dosage of “the seat at the table” talk. There is no question that using buzzwords is addictive. It is in our nature to want to dress up a word so that it sounds-well, more interesting. I have never been an addict of using buzzwords, but I’d be lying if I said I have’nt used them to explain a concept or just for the fun of it. It requires effort to be conscious of what you say and how you say it.
Please don’t kill my vibe- you say?
Based on my conversation with this interviewer, all of you “experts” and “gurus” with your fancy HR language are buzzkill. Yes, I said it- you.are.buzzkill. All of your big data and HR analytics talk that can solve all business issues and increase its agility so in turn, they can finally achieve that coveted seat at the table-is not as welcomed as you may think.
There is nothing wrong with being a conqueror of new HR territory, but do yourself a favor and keep it simple. I don’t mean dumb down your concepts, but I do mean that you need to make sure that the everyday HR practitioner gets what you’re talking about. Oh, and please do not tell me that those aren’t the people you are trying to reach, because if not them who are you speaking to? Who are you convincing to buy-in to your out-of-this-universe concepts and buzzwords? Is it business leaders? Not a chance in hell. You need to resonate with the everyday HR practitioner working in the trenches.
One of my professors in college always said ” a paper written in plain language with the proper grammatical and contextual effects is the most effective paper.” “Papers with floral language and terms that appear over the writer’s head is hardly effective and may even appear as ignorance over intelligence.”
There’s no question that HR has to evolve as the needs of our business partners become more complex and diverse. However, that factor is no reason to further alienate them from the discipline of HR by creating terms, methodology, and concepts that are too difficult to understand.
My interview was successful because I answered her questions in plain language and with practical advice and insights as to how her clients can employ my tips. Instead of saying businesses need to become “agile”, I may have said business leaders need to be able to act and think decisively in order to remain competitive. When I speak about all of the information/data we have available to us regarding the business, I speak about the ways we can make the most out of all of this information and utilizing only the information that makes the most sense for your business. Isn’t that much better than throwing around “big data” every other sentence?
There are HR departments that still don’t know how to properly interpret “time-to-fill” or “cost of hire” reports. That is small data- so they aren’t close to being ready for big data. Are they behind the times? Perhaps, but if business is thriving without big data and the HR department is doing what make sense for that business- none of this high-level talk will ever resonate with them.
For those heading to Orlando for SHRM’s Annual Conference as a speaker or social media influencer, keep in mind that usage of “flavor-of-the-day” buzzwords is impractical. People are spending good money to learn and possibly take some useful HR nuggets home. Do your best not to disappoint them.
Are you ready for a new strategy or way of thinking about how you approach HR? I speak HR and have the tools you need in plain language. Contact me.