The HR name game: What’s in a name?

By Debbie Nicol

Picture this. An HR Manager is called to the meeting, where FINALLY he or she hears the managers speaking of an HR concept or functionality which is a non-existent in that corporate culture, one that could add so much value to the business. Excitement flows with the challenge to ‘bring in’ something like this! Sadly, this is all too often how change is effected in the HR world (clearly it’s not Strategic HR in this organization), and with multiple stakeholders having multiple meanings and intent for one simple buzz word which everyone just reacts to! ‘What’s in a name’ is often misinterpretation, emotional reactivity and wasted effort.

Take for example one common term ‘performance management’ – unfortunately often used as a buzzword. When an HR Professional is asked to explore this realm, he or she is often out there investigating the requirements of the business and its stakeholders, the productivity and skills level that are responsible for current production levels, the gap between the two, possible solutions to close the gap and individual’s contribution, past, present and future.

What the organization may be looking for is a ‘dumbed-down’ version of a score that can then be justified against pay rises, with little or no focus on business results, individual’s development or leadership – simply a ‘report and allocate’ function.

So how can HR professionals be sure not to waste time and effort in reaction to the use of buzzwords, but rather be clear on any effort to be invested? Here’s three easy steps:

– List all of the versions and derivatives of any buzzword given to you. Describe each with a definition that clearly differentiates. Share this with the person using the buzzword to check which definition resonates with them, and why. Understand which they see themselves working with. Ask why the ones pushed to the side do NOT resonate. This will provide an indication of the level of understanding that exists currently, and the level of depth any solution you may build needs.

A great example would be the spectrum of terminologies that exist regarding Performance Management. Terms include Performance Management, Performance Review, Performance Appraisals, Job Chat, Performance KPI’s, Performance and Careering Pathing, Measurement System, Goals, to name but a few

– Once the preferred definition is clear, dig deeper to discover the real purpose or intent of that functionality existing in the organization. Ascertain the level of congruence you have with the level of genuine intent. Some organizations simply react as the industry seems to want it whilst others truly understand and document the value that this functionality will bring, and the intention to measure it’s impact on productivity and corporate culture.

– Put the existing organization under a microscope, and view it as a living and breathing ecosystem. If this concept was to be introduced, where would you place it as an intervention and what would be its likely cause and effect on the other existing corporate culture and people elements. What bridges or connectors would also need to be built to ensure this is not rejected, just as a heart that is transplanted but not nurtured into the new body does so.

‘What’s In a Name’ you ask – the opportunity to explore and ensure a positive and productive relationship between alignment and effort.

Debbie Nicol, Managing Director of ‘business en motion’, moves businesses and leaders ahead through change. Debbie applies the Prosci® Change Management Methodology in her business consultancy and learning organization across the GCC and Asia. Connect with her on LinkedIn orTwitter.

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