26 Business & HR Buzzwords You Should Retire in 2014

Having worked in the workplace and human resources industries for a number of years as a practitioner and analyst, I’ve seen the world from both sides. On one hand practitioners look to analysts, thought leaders and resource sites like Blogging4Jobs for information, direction and insights into the trends and happenings for the HR and recruitment industries.

As workplace practitioners we want to hear the latest information and resources to help us do our jobs. Unfortunately, not everyone wants the same things. Pundits, service providers and others work an angle using the opportunity for information as a way to drive downloads, media opportunities and build buzz instead of focusing on what the audience really needs.

Understanding the Business & Technology Hype Cycle

We call this the Hype Cycle (graphic below) where an analyst, individuals and media outlets perpetuate the noise or buzz around a new trend creating a disconnected type of hype. This works in smaller scale situations like a team or company culture. At my last employer, we used best of breed no less than 10 times in every executive and team meeting. Often times this hype is centered around some soft of business and technology.

As an analyst, content providers thought leaders, etc my job is to give it to you insights, resources and information except that most focus solely on the buzz. Factor in the growing number of service providers and technologies in the space who employ analysts for the purposes of leverage and the hype cycle really comes into play. As a blog and resource site, I want nothing more than a blog post to go viral driving web traffic and visitors to my online community so I work to develop creative stories and headlines while also balancing the need to provide solid and useful information for the everyday practitioner who reads our blog.  Unfortunately, not everyone works to create a balance in this way.

This Hype Cycle fuels viral traffic, buzz, and water cooler conversations in the HR, recruiting and workplace industries starting with the use of tried and true buzz words, catch phrases and popular words used to describes emerging industries walking the line between buzz and beneficial. During conferences especially, I keep a mental list of buzzwords used during a presentation or talk because there are just times when it’s just too much. Like a keyword stuffed blog post with the goal of only driving website traffic instead of value, it’s hard to read or listen to. We’re all guilty of writing, mentioning or talking about one of those listed below, but there’s comes a point when it’s just too much. We’ve reached a point of diminishing returns when it comes to business and HR buzzwords.


Buzzwords We Should Retire Immediately

And as content marketing and the use of thought leaders as microphones for organizations continues to grow as a way for service providers to reach HR, buzz words and hype will continue. It’s a good time to be a pundit or content marketing working in HR and recruiting. What I really want to do is insist that these twenty five terms be stricken and banned from use by pundits, thought leaders, service providers and practitioners who work in HR.

  • The War for Talent 
  • Low Hanging Fruit 
  • Social Recruiting 
  • Skills Gap 
  • Strategic Alignment – Because not all alignments are strategic…
  • Seat at the Table
  • Recruiting 2.0 
  • Game Changing 
  • Exit Strategy 
  • Candidate Profile 
  • Scalable – This is so common among the investment firms and VC community. Please make it stop!
  • Out of the Box 
  • Bandwidth 
  • Big Data – Isn’t every piece of data big data in theory?
  • Talent Mobility 
  • Partnership or Integration 
  • Total Compensation Package 
  • Employer of Choice 
  • Talent Community
  • Intreprenuers
  • Top-Grading 
  • Engagement 
  • Core Competency – At annual review time, I keep my business buzzword list handy. It’s one of my core competencies
  • Fully Integrated Suite of Products 
  • Deep Dive 
  • Best in Class – When HR technology companies mention this, I feel like I’m buying a Lexus instead of an ATS

What buzzword or buzzwords did I miss ? Feel free to add a comment below and join the movement to rid ourselves of the blah blah.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell is the founder of Workology, a digital resource that reaches more than a half million HR and workplace leaders each month and host of the Workology Podcast. Jessica lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, daughter, and an assortment of furry family members.

Reader Interactions


  1. Matt Charney says

    Great list, Jessica! I’d also love it if we retired the numbered list format for content in 2014, too – it’s just as ubiquitous and obnoxious as any of these – although something tells me that I’m going to be disappointed on that Quixotic quest.

  2. Veronica Boyd says

    Great list- thanks for sharing! Transparent and Transparency need to find a way to retirement. As if we can’t see right through people who overuse these words?


  3. Ray_anne says

    Hi Jessica –

    Great LIST. I am a hater, in particular, of Big Data – as I think we have been measuring this in as many ways as we could (as tech and our pea-brains would allow) since the beginning of time. Our CFOs and CEOS have demanded it. The difference NOW is that we have an opportunity, through incredible semantic technologies to really break it down and possibly predict – possibly.
    I think we should be measuring “small data” – data that is applicable to us or our companies specifically – THAT is where it counts, where we can use it to benefit our own worlds.

    I don’t think every trend is applicable to every company or every industry. Sometimes, HR influencers and the analysts that serve this space try to apply “the whole wide world and every fricking tech and buzz word” to what we do in an attempt to drive traffic or interest – when it should be about the people – the humans.

    Why don’t we just do our jobs better and find techs specific to the purpose? Trends are supposed to happen organically, not because an “influencer” wrote about it.

    Happy New Year!


    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      Thanks Rayanne. Big data is just a bunch of big blah blah blah. Of course I’m writing an paper about big data because I feel that all the hype has disorted actually what it does and means so I’m contributing to the circle jerk of buzzwords….

      Oh well.


    • Jessica Miller-Merrell says

      I take that back. I’m a couple chapters into “Age of Context” and really loving how they describe big data. Big data is like a mountain when you need just a spoonful of specific information. Question is how to get it…


  4. Stefan says

    Can you provide any justification for removing these buzzwords from our vocabulary, apart from the fact that you personally don’t like them? A lot of them are really useful, such as engagement, which captures employees’ motivation and satisfaction at work, and the use of their full potential? What exactly is wrong with these words?

  5. Peter Cook - Speaker and Writer on Business and Music says

    A duplicate word which adds nothing to people’s understanding is a wasted word Stefan. Some of these bits of jargon are worse in that they simply confuse. Jargon has it’s place as a kind of shorthand between professional cultures but when it acts as a barrier to entering a conversation, it has failed.

  6. Michael Tagg says

    The one that gets up my nose is ‘bandwidth’, being an electronics and data communications engineer I can tell you that human beings have very little ‘bandwidth’. Bandwidth denotes the available carrying capacity of multiple data sources. As human beings cognitively only tend to process information and are not a transport mediums the term when applied to us is just plain wrong and stupid.


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