A recent #nzlead featured the question “How do you use engagement as an employment branding tool?” After a few of us admitted to being baffled, it was replaced with “how do you spread the word about how cool a place it is to work, so that other people want to work there?”
I think the change was a great improvement, primarily because you don’t have to be an HR professional to understand it. Too much of our language is starting to exclude people rather than include them, an unfortunate change give our line of work.
As a profession we are growing, developing and finding our way all at the same time. We are trying to find a way to describe what we do so that it has at least a whiff of validity about it. We are, unfortunately, undermining our credibility – attempting to make what we do seem more complicated than it actually is. You notice I say ‘complicated’ and not harder. What we do is (quite often) tough, so explaining why it is to people in straightforward language, rather than attempting to remystify HR, is key to helping ensure our offering to the business and the people we work with is transparent.
‘I held a structured post initiative review of our performance management year, focusing on the unexpected level of differentiation in performance ratings from the half yearly data extract and concluded there were systemic adjustments we needed to make for the next cycle’ – complicated to understand
‘some of us got together and looked at the data because it seemed everyone’s ratings were jumping about and they shouldn’t have been, we’ve agreed some changes to make things better next time’ – the same thing, but you sound like a real person dealing with a real problem for real people, rather than a professional regurgitator of management textbooks
Some of the hardest things we have to do are restructures/ consultations/ downsizing/ scaling/ organisational reviews – by which I mean telling people that they don’t have a job anymore. Some of the best things we get to do are engagement programmes/ organizational alignment campaigns/ Employee Value Proposition reviews/ employer brand work – by which I mean creating better places for people to work. We turn both the good and bad of things that are intrinsically about people into things that sound like we are dealing with systems and process. If you lose sight of the fact that everything we do is about people (even those systems and processes…) then it is no surprise that, all too often, we end up in circular ‘what are we here for?’ debates.
If we want transparent and inclusive organisations (most people do) then HR should have a key role in making sure language isn’t a barrier – we should be adding value – better still, we should just be helpful. “As simple as you can make it, but no simpler. We need to make sure the language we use is to benefit the person we are talking to, not our own sense of professional worth. Who are we trying to impress? Impress them by talking to them in a way they are comfortable with, not that you are.
So here are some questions to stimulate your thinking
Q1) Where do you believe we benefit from using technical terms to describe what we do?
Q2) What are your least favourite terms that are in common usage in HR?
Q3) What would be simpler ways of describing that activity or concept?
About this week’s contributor…
David D’Souza. I’m an experienced HR professional, formerly Head of People Development at MetroBank. I’m intrigued by the opportunities that improved analytics and technology provide to enhance people’s ways of working – and therefore business performance. I’m also in favour of companies’ work practices being designed around people – rather than attempting the more challenging feat of redesigning people around work practices. I blog at http://ddsouzadotcom.wordpress.com/ and am currently supporting a crowdsourced book of HR blogs, as well as the #CIPDHack