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Ideas and insights for today’s people-centered leaders.

HR Glossary of common terms, definitions, questions and answers. Find definitions for terms like DEI, affinity bias, merit raise, compensation and more

A growing compendium of HR terms, questions, and—most importantly—their definitions.


Agile Staffing

A method for managing temporary labor needs. It allows employers to hire as needed instead of having long-term commitments to permanent hires.

Affinity Bias

Affinity bias is a tendency for people to favor others who share similarities with them. Such affinities could be based on shared interests, socio-economic or cultural backgrounds, values or even physical characteristics such as race or gender. Often affinity bias is an unconscious or implicit bias, meaning that the holder of the affinity bias doesn’t necessarily intend to favor those most similar to themselves, and may not even realize that they do so.


A computational assessment of data for the purpose of understanding and communicating large amounts of information. Analytics gives context to your data to help you see where patterns or trends (for example, how many vacation days employees in sales versus customer service are taking) may exist, which can alert you to problem areas or opportunities to double down on. This enables you to make more informed and better decisions.

Annualized Resignation Rate

Annualized resignation rate is a projection of annual turnover created by taking the average resignation rate available and extrapolating. For example, if the resignation rate over the first 6 months was 20%, then the annualized resignation rate would be 40%.

Artificial Intelligence

Computer systems designed to mimic human intelligence. Capabilities include reasoning, learning, problem-solving, perception, speech recognition, natural language processing, knowledge representation, planning, and more.

Business Outcomes

Business outcomes are measurable results that move organizations towards their strategic objectives. Examples include sales targets, customer retention, and increased profitability.  

Career Pathing

Career path refers to the progression of employees’ careers. Career paths can be defined by level of responsibility, title, salary, and more. These paths may not be linear, but predictive analytics can help people leaders coach their staff with an eye to the future.

CEO Pay Ratio

This is the ratio of the CEOs compensation and the median employee pay. Pay ratios compare how much money CEOs earn compared with average workers and vary depending on industry, company size, and many other factors.

Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

An executive that manages human resources at an organization and implements policies of change to improve HR efficiency.

Cognitive Heuristics

Mental shortcuts used to quickly process information. They’re often subconscious and involve making quick judgments about things we see around us. For example, if one manager implements a practice that increased employee satisfaction, you might assume that implementing that practice across the organization will increase satisfaction overall.

Cohort Analysis

Identifying key characteristics of a group of similar people over time. Cohorts, or groups of people with something in common, provide insight into why certain behaviors occur and allow organizations to identify potential problems before they happen.


A monetary benefit that is provided by employers to attract and retain qualified workers. Compensation can include salary, bonuses, health insurance benefits, paid time off, retirement plans, tuition reimbursement programs, and more.

Compensation Analysis

The practice of comparing employee compensation against market standards to determine whether or not they are paid fairly.

Datafication of HR

The datafication of HR refers to the use of analytics to help organizations understand more about their people, HR processes, and external demographics—and how all of these impact bottom-line business outcomes.   

Data allows organizations and their HR and other leaders to make informed decisions about the selection, management, deployment, and support of employees. Datafication involves the use of operational data to inform business strategy and help business leaders plan for the future. From an HR perspective, the term refers to the ability to use analytics when making decisions.

Data Visualization

A visual representation of data that communicates information about numbers, trends, patterns, often presented graphically. Commonly used to convey complex ideas quickly and clearly.

DEI or D&I or DEIB

In recent years, companies—and indeed popular culture in general—have placed increasing importance on the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion, or “DEI.” Some companies say “D&I” or “diversity and inclusion,” while others also include a “B” for “belonging” as in “DEIB.”

Companies that pursue DEI initiatives tend to recognize that there is a real and positive impact to their bottom line when they seek to create inclusive workplaces that take advantage of the widest possible range of ideas, values, insights and creativity.

Democratization of Data

The democratization of data is providing direct access to data and analytics to support workforce decisions—not just to HR staff members, but to other leaders, people managers and even employees themselves. It’s the recognition that data is power and that, placed in the right hands, it can help organizations make better, more informed, and more data-driven decisions.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a term for the massive impacts that technology is having on organizations of all kinds. It suggests a strategic approach to the ways that technology will impact organizations and the recognition that decisions related to the use of technology need to be based on enterprise-wide needs, and not just the needs of individual business functions.

This shift in thinking is creating both challenges and opportunities for a wide range of business functions—including HR.

Employee Engagement

Employees’ level of connection and involvement with the organization. Employee engagement helps organizations achieve business goals while creating positive experiences for both managers and employees.

Employee Experience

The application of experience design in the workplace. The goal is to intentionally create events, services, and an organizational environment that focuses on the quality of the culture within a company.

Employee Retention

An organization’s ability to retain its employees. Companies keep an eye on retention rates to see what’s currently working and better understand what they can do to keep their talented employees.

Employee Turnover

That rate at which people in an organization leave their jobs every year. A high turnover rate may lead to a lack of talent needed for specific roles.

Future of Work

The “future of work” describes what the workforce of tomorrow will look like. Due to technological improvements and advancements over the past several years, the workplace and how people do their jobs has changed significantly. But the pandemic in early 2020 drove that impetus even more.

Glass Ceiling

Refers to the fact that women have been limited from reaching higher levels within corporations—they can see what’s up above on the career ladder, but they can’t break through to get there. The term comes from the idea that there’s a barrier preventing them from achieving success.


Healthcare Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems (HCAHPS) is a standardized survey developed by the Agency for Health Care Quality. Hospitals use these scores to evaluate patient satisfaction, which is tied directly to their Medicare and Medicaid payments.


At its most basic level, “headcount” in human resources parlance simply refers to the number of people employed by a company at a given time. Of course, as complex as companies’ workforce organization can be, there are many nuances and factors to consider when tallying up the actual headcount.

In reality, employees can—and should be—categorized in a number of different ways for reporting, organizational and planning purposes. A headcount, therefore, is not only about tallying the total number of employees, but also categorizing them according to a variety of characteristics.

Heuristic Bias

A type of cognitive bias where people make judgments based on what seems most familiar rather than accurate information. For example, if you see that a lot of employees in a department are leaving, you might make an assumption based on the reasons you’ve seen employees leave in the past.

HR Business Partner (HRBP)

A role that works directly with business leaders to align the HR agenda with the objectives of designated business units. They are responsible for initiatives such as strategic workforce planning, developing training programs, managing compensation plans, and more.

HR Metrics

HR metrics are systems or tools used to measure the performance of elements of the human resources function. Some examples of HR metrics are: revenue per employee, or turnover.

HR Strategy

HR strategy includes all activities related to recruiting, selecting, staffing, retaining, motivating, rewarding, compensating, promoting, supervising, evaluating, disciplining, terminating, transferring, outsourcing, and other functions to support business goals.

HR Transformation

The process of rethinking and changing HR practices within an organization.

Human Resources

The department responsible for providing all employees with an environment that promotes their professional development and growth. It also ensures that each individual has access to the tools necessary to be successful in his or her job role.

Involuntary Turnover

The loss of an employee due to downsizing, restructuring, mergers, acquisitions. In some cases, it could also mean losing an employee because they were fired.

Learning and Development (L&D)

Training and education and organization on new technologies, processes, policies, procedures, and more, so that individuals are better equipped to perform their jobs effectively. L&D may take place at any point during one’s career.

Merit Increase

A merit increase is a pay raise given to an employee based on their performance. It can be determined by seniority or tenure, but it more often determined by market rates today.

Natural Attrition

The loss of staff due to factors unrelated to performance, including resignation, illness, disability, retirement, and more.

Organizational Network Analysis (ONA)

Analyzing relationships between individuals and groups inside an organization. ONA provides insights into how different departments interact with one another as well as how those interactions affect performance.

People Analytics

An approach to analyzing large amounts of an organization’s people data to gain actionable insights. People analytics uses statistical methods like regression modeling, clustering algorithms, and machine learning techniques to analyze big data sets.

Position Management

Position management is the process that companies, usually with guidance from the HR department, use to determine which positions, and how many, need to be on board to accomplish the organization’s goals and objectives. 

Purple Squirrel

You may have heard the term “unicorn” to describe a company with unique and desirable attributes that cause it to stand out from other organizations. Recruiters often use a similar term to refer to job candidates who have these unique attributes: purple squirrel.A purple squirrel is a candidate who represents a perfect fit for a position. As you might imagine, purple squirrels can be hard to find.

Quality of Hire

The value a new hire adds to your organization and how they contribute to the success of the company.


Provides information about what is happening within your organization.

Representative Bias

When one decision-maker compares two situations or groups because of perceived similarities. This may lead to bad hiring or workforce decisions. For example, if you have two employees eligible for a promotion with similar experience levels, you might assume that they could both equally succeed when that isn’t necessarily true.

Representative Heuristic

A judgment error where individuals assume that if something has happened frequently, it will continue happening. For example, if you see a potential candidate as shy during an interview, you may assume that they can perform well in a customer or client-facing role. This assumption could prevent you from fully recognizing their skillset.


The process of acquiring additional skills through formalized educational programs or informal self-learning activities. Reskilling often occurs after the structure of an organization shifts during layoffs or other changes in work roles.


Rightsizing is a term used to describe a business’s efforts to gradually guide an organization into the appropriate size and structure for its current and future business operations.

Rooney Rule

Originally implemented by the National Football League (NFL) and named for the late Dan Rooney, former Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman, the Rooney Rule was an effort to boost opportunities for minorities to land head coaching positions in the NFL. The rule created requirements for interviewing at least one diverse candidate for open head coaching positions.

Skills Assessment

Used to identify strengths and weaknesses in specific areas of expertise. The results from this type of evaluation help determine whether training will be required before promotion or if new responsibilities should be assigned.

Skills Gap

An area where there is not enough skilled labor available to meet current demand. A skill gap exists when there are fewer people who have certain qualifications than what is currently being demanded.

Spans and Layers

Used to assess the width and depth of an organization. Span measures the number of direct reports for each manager. Layer measures the number of supervisory levels.

Succession Planning

Finding and reviewing the path to future employment opportunities within an organization. This includes identifying potential openings as well as understanding the skills needed to fill those positions.

Talent Acquisition

The process that companies go through to find qualified candidates for open job opportunities. This includes identifying talent pools, screening applicants based on criteria including their experience and knowledge.

Time to Fill

This metric measures the amount of time required to find a qualified candidate after advertising a position.  


The process of acquiring new skills and/or improving existing ones. While this can happen at any time, this is something partially needed when an organization goes through major changes or a merger. 

Voluntary Turnover

The act of an employee leaving an organization by choice for professional or personal reasons. Usually measured using exit interviews and surveys.

Workforce Planning

Figuring out how many workers your organization needs during a given time period to support growth and ensure profitability. Involves determining the number of staff members you need for each department.

Workforce Reduction

Workforce reduction occurs when an employer reduces its workforce through layoffs, attrition, retirement, resignations, transfers, promotions, demotions, terminations, and retirements.

About the Author

People-centered ideas and insights by the editorial team at Visier.

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