A Generation of Buzzwords

Most of HR is discussed in a jargon that has been slowly evolving since the first Personnel Departments emerged during the depression.

I was talking with a colleague about the buzzword problem in HR Technology. Most of HR is discussed in a jargon that has been slowly evolving since the first Personnel Departments emerged during the depression. The language of job descriptions, merit increases, conflict management, skills and personality assessment all require some level of stability in the language.

As technology began to penetrate the HR Marketplace, buzzwords became a feature of product marketing. As a result, the language is getting sketchier and meaning changes too fast for anyone to be able to agree on anything. New ideas rapidly devolve to the least common denominator.

This is the way that great ideas like “talent pool,”  “talent community” and “talent pipeline” have become shorthand for the more apt “email list”. It’s how “intimate and authentic communication” evolves to “modified and personalized direct mail.”

Software companies, particularly the giants, resist new features. They are uncomfortable with innovation. They hate risk. They are really good at stability. This is what their customers want, from a budgetary and cost standpoint. Predictability is the enemy of the new.

New ideas enter the market faster than enterprise providers are able to react. Pretty soon, all of the users are asking for the new feature. (In large software accounts, the users are rarely the customers and the customers are rarely the users.) There are very few tools that are useful for managing the problem. Caught between users and buyers, the enterprise vendors use marketing to solve the problem.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Great new idea emerges (let’s call it Using Social Media for Recruiting)
  2. Recruiters hop on board. Recruiters are always the first to use new technologies.
  3. New companies emerge to utilize the new services, many are variants on older ways of doing things.
  4. The industry is awash in quiet rumblings about the lack of useful data. New technologies don’t have an ROI
  5. The buzz builds, conferences launch, support groups are formed.
  6. Bigger companies start to get threatened by the early traction smaller more agile companies find.
  7. Big companies start renaming existing functions after the new ideas. Mailing list management is a good one. It’s been called “talent management” and CRM
  8. All companies in the market can check off the fact that they have the new capability.
  9. The cynics survive and get promoted.
  10. Great new ideas emerge….

Sadly, there’s no one who is really watching the henhouse.

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