Let’s put an end to outdated gobbledegook

I was chatting to a friendly chief executive the other day and, inevitably,
we got onto the subject of HR representation on the board.

I said there weren’t enough of us, and he agreed. Part of the problem, he
said, was that we didn’t speak his language, and he didn’t understand much of

He said our esteemed profession had invented "a bunch of
gobbledegook". I wanted to accuse him of the same thing but he was a nice
guy, and he was bigger than me.

Still, our conversation has galvanised me into ‘blue sky’ thinking, and a
strong protest against some of the more extreme terms that have crept into our
everyday office speak.

Top of my most-hated list is the term ‘human capital management’, or HCM
(we’ve got more acronyms in HR than anyone else – it has to stop). Who dreamt
that one up? They’ve a lot to answer for. I don’t appreciate being referred to
as human capital and I’m pretty sure few, if any, do. The term conjures up
visions of cattle in trucks.

‘Low hanging fruit’ and ‘dead wood’ – used in the context of a proposal to
‘downsize’ (an outmoded term now, praise be) – must also go.

We in HR fondly talk of people power. We espouse staff engagement and all
that kind of stuff. Yet some of the terms we use do little to charm our armies
of employees. They are disrespectful and dehumanising.

And while I’m at it, let’s stop using the term ‘roadmap’. It was conjured up
during the invasion of Iraq and having since heard it used in every context
imaginable, I’m bored with it. Like Saddam, it has had its day. The word ‘plan’
would suffice.

Hartley is an HR director at large

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