By Deborah Hopkins, July 18, 2018

Sometimes, after a long day, I find myself in a labyrinth of articles intended to draw in the reader with catchy titles or claims – clickbait. Every now and then (though sadly not often) I find something amusing, interesting, or valuable. Of course, given my profession I’m drawn to HR-and-legal-type articles, but I’m not immune to other topics – especially on a transcontinental flight when the WiFi is actually working.

It’s summertime and while there are plenty of important things happening every day, sometimes you just need a little mindless reading, so here for your reading pleasure is a list, in no particular order, of some trendy HR and legal terms that I’ve come across in recent months. You’ll see a loose definition, and beneath it the word or term used in a sentence.

Mainstream – a verb people are using that basically means “to offer for consideration.”

  • “I’ll mainstream this policy draft to the CHCO ASAP.”

Socialize – another trendy word for passing around a document in the workplace, so that important people see it. Often used in conjunction with mainstream.

  • “Let me socialize your resume around the front office to see if anyone wants to mainstream it.”

Upskill – a term for teaching an employee new workplace skills.

  • “Employees who participate in voluntary upskill seminars are more likely to be promoted.”

Retention interview – an interview with a current employee, who has no plans to leave the agency, about why she still works there. (Umm, what?)

  • “I’ll meet you for lunch after I get out of my retention interview with the Director.”

Deep dive background – a number of employers don’t just call references. No, they comb through social media to learn all they can about a potential hire, before scheduling an interview. This is a deep dive.

  • “Before we bring him in for an interview, we need to do a deep dive background on the candidate so there aren’t any surprises.”

Lifeline – a term that signifies the heart and soul of why your organization exists and who is most essential to its ability to achieve the agency mission.

  • “The GS-12 analysts are our lifeline; without them we can’t do anything.”

Mobility pyramid – an organizational model that identifies who is least likely, up to who is most likely, to be willing to be reassigned in the event of a reorganization.

  • “The 2018 mobility pyramid shows that 30% of our workforce is rooted to the headquarters region.”

People and Culture – I saw this one in an Australian HR publication, and it is how a particular company refers to its HR department. In fact, HR departments all over the world are getting rid of the Human Resources moniker in favor of cutting-edge labels like People Operations, Employee Experience, or Partner Resources.

  • “We have a job opening for Assistant Director of People and Culture.”

Delayering – though this looks like a word for slowing something down, it actually means getting rid of hierarchy.

  • “The agency head is considering delayering the federal contractor selection system.”

Induction – a word for what we used to call onboarding or orientation.

  • “The employee will arrive for induction Monday morning at 8:00.”

360-degree feedback – a process of performance appraisal where employees are rated not only by supervisors, but by coworkers, direct reports, and customers too.

  • “We’re running a pilot on 360-degree feedback to see if it improves the employee’s motivation to perform.”

People analytics – turning people into statistics in an attempt to solve grand-scale problems.

  • “As our organization grows, we need to run a predictive people analytics test to determine how many new hires to induct as part of the delayering process.”

And finally …

Contribution – a term I recently saw an agency start using, to replace the word performance. Yes, that’s right, instead of a Performance Plan, the employees are given Contribution Plans, and they are rated not on their Performance but on their Contribution to the agency.

  • “Please meet me at 2:00 Tuesday for your mid-year Contribution assessment feedback meeting.”


As the teenagers used to say in 2016, I can’t even.

My brain hurts. Whatever happened to words like apply, interview, and job offer? I guess that’s for greater minds than mine to determine.

And with that, go forth and enhance your vocabulary. [email protected]

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