Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A linguistic expedition to the core of HR!?

It is said that the importance of a particular thing for a group is often reflected in the number of words they have for it. For example, Eskimos have many words for 'snow' (the number of words for snow  ranges from about 12 to 52, depending on which Anthropologist you want to listen to) to bring out the finer nuances in various types of snow.

I was wondering if we can adopt a similar approach to ‘reverse-engineer’ that is really important in the field of Human Resources (HR). So, let’s see what we can infer by looking at the various areas in HR and examining how many terms are there to describe each of them.

To avoid, ‘false positives’, let’s consider only the ‘technical terms’('jargon', if you prefer) that are widely used in HR and not just synonyms in English! Yes, this classification is not a very precise one as some of these terms have significantly different connotations (though they are related to the same concept) and as these terms go in and out of fashion! Of course, the 'core of HR' is also not static and it keeps on shifting and evolving!

These are the areas and the terms to describe them that come to mind immediately.

So, prima facie it appears that ‘what the employees are supposed to do’ and ‘what is there in the minds of the employees’ seem to be the key preoccupations in HR! While the first one is obvious (else, why do we need employees) the second one could be because of its ‘mysterious nature’ and because of the foundations of HR in psychology!

What do you think? Also, please let me know if you can add any more areas in HR (that has a large number of terms associated with them) and/or more terms related to an area that has already been listed!


R. Anand said...

Sound though unconventional approach Prasad. Sounded like a freakonomist!
I 'll add: work environment, climate, culture.
Also settlement, agreement, contract
It will be interesting to do a meta analysis of frequency of these terms in research over time
Surely,it's raining jargons !

Prasad Oommen Kurian said...

Thank you very much Anand! I guess the frequency of use (of the various words) might be different for various groups like b-school teachers, researchers,consultants and HR professionals in organizations(even within the same country)!