10 Must-Know HR Terms

(12-15 minute read)

Like any other profession, Human resources (HR )has unique terms that are used primarily by people within the field. However, HR newcomers and employees working outside of HR may not be up to speed, slowing their communication with those “in the know.”

To help keep everyone on the same page, we’ve prepared a list of 10 terms commonly used in the HR industry.

  1. 360-Degree Feedback

This is a process by which employee performance is evaluated via confidential feedback from internal and/or external sources—such as managers, peers, subordinates, and customers. The person under review must typically fill out a self-assessment form that contains the same questions answered by the internal and external sources. Through 360-degree feedback, employees can see how their behaviors are perceived by others versus how they view themselves, ultimately enabling them to build on their strengths and eliminate weaknesses.

  1. Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

A software application that automates the company’s recruiting and staffing operations. The ATS serves as a central repository for job applications, resumes, and other candidate data, making it easier to track the hiring process, organize information on prospective employees and communicate directly with applicants.

  1. Benchmarking

From an HR perspective, benchmarking is a technique used to compare the organization’s human resource processes with industry best practices in order to improve the quality of services offered. Successful benchmarking involves:

  1. Determining what to benchmark
  2. Collecting benchmarking information
  3. Knowing what to do with the data collected
  4. Implementing (and monitoring) the changes
  5. Co-Employment

A contractual agreement between an employer and a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) in which the employer retains control over its business operations while the co-employer, or PEO, manages the employer’s HR-related functions. The employer and the co-employer both share the risk associated with employment, tax filing, benefits, and compliance.

  1. Core Competencies

The skills, knowledge, and abilities employees need to successfully do their job and advance the organization’s goals. Core competencies vary by role. However, some of the most common qualities include:

  • Excellent communicator
  • Ethical and accountable
  • Seeks to deliver the highest level of service
  • Able to handle complex problems and situations
  • Focused on producing quality results
  • Works well with the team
  • Capable of adapting to changes in the work environment
  1. Corporate Culture

The values, beliefs, attitudes, and standards that define your organization and guide its practices. HR plays an integral role in ensuring the company’s culture is properly communicated to all employees and updated as industry and workplace norms change.

  1. Cost-Per-Hire

The costs that come with attracting, sourcing, and recruiting new talent—such as advertising costs, staffing agency fees, relocation costs, applicant travel costs, employee referral payments, and training expenses. Cost-per-hire applies not just to new employees hired outside of the company but also to employees promoted or transferred internally.

  1. Onboarding

The process through which the applicant becomes an employee. Onboarding consists of making sure the right new hire documents are filled out, administering new-hire benefits, performing new-hire orientation, and putting measures in place to ensure employee longevity.

  1. Sourcing

Sourcing is the process of identifying potential candidates for open positions. This is accomplished via a variety of methods, rather than simply waiting for people to apply. Sourcing techniques include checking resume databases, professional directories, and competitor websites; analyzing social media profiles; utilizing search engines; and building talent pools.

  1. Total Rewards

The organization’s strategy (beyond salary compensation) for attracting, motivating, engaging and retaining employees. Per WorldatWork, there are six components of total rewards:

  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Work-life effectiveness
  • Recognition
  • Performance management
  • Talent development

When combined, these six elements reflect a holistic rewards program.

If you’re curious at all about how your organization measures up across an industry, or even against other organizations of a similar size, consider our free HR diagnostic to get started. Additionally, visit our resources page for helpful tools and webinars on many of the terms above.


July 5, 2018




< 50 employees Article Compliance HR Professional Human Resources