Human Resources Terms

Following please find a list of commonly used Human Resources Terms. These will be utilized throughout the Knowledge Center.

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Ability: The present power to perform a function, physical or mental.

Absenteeism Policy: A policy about attendance requirements, scheduled and unscheduled time off, and measures for dealing with workplace absenteeism. Repeated absenteeism can lead to termination.

  • Scheduled time off: Excused absences from regular work hours scheduled in advance by an employee for such things as vacation, medical appointments, military service, jury duty, etc.
  • Unscheduled time off: Absence from work during regular work hours that was not scheduled in advance by the employee (e.g. sickness). Absences are generally accepted and sometimes compensated if their frequency and rationale fall within an organization's attendance policy.

Accident: Any unforeseen or unplanned incident or event usually resulting in damage or injury.

Accountability: Having to answer to someone for performance or complying with a recognized standard.

Administrative Services Only (ASO): The hiring of a firm (usually a health care vendor) to handle certain administrative tasks. The firm does not assume any risk but merely carries out the specialized functions that the employer cannot or does not want to do. For example, an employer funds its own dental insurance claim payments but pays the ASO firm to process the claims.

Affirmative Action: Proactive policies aimed at increasing the employment opportunities of certain groups (typically, minority men and/or women of all racial groups). Title 5, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that affirmative action be taken in employment of persons with disabilities by Federal contractors. Affirmative action was designed to rectify past discrimination but has been controversial since its inception.

Agent (Insurance): An employee who sells the products owned by the company, in contrast to a broker, who sells the insurance products of several companies. See Broker.

Allocation: The assignment of a position to a class on the basis of the kind, difficulty and responsibility of work of the position, without regard to the incumbent.

Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR): An informal process to resolve disputes. Involved parties meet with a trained third party who assists in resolving the problem by arbitration, mediation, judicial settlement conferences, conciliation or other methods. Though usually voluntary, ADR is sometimes mandated by a judge as a first step before going to court.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is part of a federal law that prohibits discrimination against someone with a disability, defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." Disability is decided on a case-by-case basis and does not include conditions such as substance abuse. This law applies to the whole employment cycle, from application through advancement and termination.

Anniversary Date: Date of hire or rehire without a break in service with the Tribe (excluding districts).

Applicant Tracking System (ATS): A software application that began as a way to electronically handle recruitment needs but has since expanded to the entire employment life cycle. Onboarding, training and succession planning capabilities now exist, for example. An ATS can be implemented on an enterprise level or small business level, depending on the size and needs of the company. Applicant Tracking Systems may also be referred to as Talent Management Systems. An ATS saves time and increases efficiency and compliance for those tasked with managing human capital.

Application Service Provider (ASP): Other common terms are SaaS (software as a service), on-demand or Web-based services. A business that provides computer-based services to customers over a network, as opposed to installing the software on a company server (hosted). This is a cost-effective solution for small and medium-sized businesses, who may find it hard to keep up with the increasing costs of specialized software, distribution and upgrades. Smaller, periodic payments replace one-time lump sum pricing. The ASP can be accessed from any location via the Internet.

Application: A written form developed by the Human Resources Office requesting information relating to the particular job or position applied for by a candidate or applicant.

Appoint: To name, hire, select or ordain as by decree, or command a person to a position, job, board, committee, etc.

Appointee: A person appointed to a position, job or office.

Appointive: Filled by appointment.

Appointment: (1) The act of appointing, hiring or placing a person into a position or office. (2) A position held by someone appointed. Note: This would also include membership to a board or committee.

Appraisal Process: Periodic evaluations of an employee's on-the-job performance as well as his or he skill level, attitude, and potential.

Attitude: Manner of speaking, working and functioning within the work environment in a positive way, channeling complaints and negative comments into the appropriate mechanism.

Attrition: A gradual voluntary reduction of employees (through resignation and retirement) who are not then replaced, decreasing the size of the workforce.


Authority: A person's right to give orders and instructions to others and to use organizational resources.


Background Screening / Pre-employment Screening: Testing to ensure that employers are hiring qualified and honest employees and that a prospective employee is capable of performing the functions required by the job. The screening can involve criminal background checks, verification of Social Security numbers, past addresses, age or year of birth, corporate affiliations, bankruptcies, liens, drug screening, skills assessment and behavioral assessments. If an employer outsources pre-employment screening, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that there must be a consent and disclosure form separate from an employment application.

Base Wage Rate (or base rate): The monthly salary or hourly wage paid for a job, irrespective of benefits, bonuses or overtime.

Balanced Scorecard: A strategic planning and management system that is used to tie business activities to the vision and strategy of the organization, improve internal and external communications, and monitor performance against goals. Developed in the early 1990's by Drs. Robert Kaplan and David Norton, the balanced scorecard measure four areas of business: internal business processes, financial performance, customer knowledge, and learning and growth.

Benchmark Job: A job commonly found in the workforce for which pay and other relevant data are readily available. Benchmark jobs are used to make pay comparisons and job evaluations.

Benchmarking: A technique using specific standards to make comparisons between different organizations or different segments of the organizations, with the intent of improving a product or service.

Benefits Administration: Software that helps companies manage and track employee participation in benefits programs such as healthcare, flexible spending accounts, pension plans, etc. This software helps automate and streamline the complex and otherwise time-consuming tasks of benefits administration.

Behavioral-based interview: An interview technique used to determine whether a candidate is qualified for a position based on their past behavior. The interviewer asks the candidate for specific examples from past work experience when certain behaviors were exhibited.

Behavioral competency: The behavior qualities and character traits of a person. These act as markers that can predict how successful a person will be at the position he/she is applying for. Employers should determine in advance what behavioral competencies fit the position and create interview questions to find out if the candidate possesses them.

Bereavement leave: Paid or unpaid time off following the death of an employee’s relative or friend. This time, generally ranging from one to three days, is given so that the employee can make arrangements, attend the funeral and attend to other matters related to the deceased. Many organizations are flexible in terms of how much time an employee takes off.

Blog: A Web log written for and posted to the Internet using such software as Readers access the blog through the Web (e.g., or subscribe to the blog’s RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed and receive alerts when there is a new posting. Blogs are becoming increasingly important to HR suppliers in order to increase their company’s visibility, communicate with customers, and promote their products or services to establish themselves as thought leaders.

Branding: Promoting a product or service by identifying and then marketing its key differentiators from competitors. The differentiator/s often inspire the name, phrase or logo for which the product or service becomes known.
Break-in Service: Not employed by any department of the Tribe for at least thirty (30) days or more; used to define the last Anniversary Date and deducted from total time in calculation of service for service awards.

Broadbanding: A pay structure that exchanges a large number of narrow salary ranges for a smaller number of broader salary ranges. This type of pay structure encourages the development of broad employee skills and growth while reducing the opportunity for promotion.

Broker: An individual who acts as an agent for a buyer and a seller and charges a commission for his/her services. An example of a large brokerage firm is Marsh. An example of a state firm is ABD in California.

Bumping: Giving long-standing employees whose positions are to be eliminated the option of taking other positions within the company that they are qualified for and that are currently held by employees with less seniority.

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO): The managing of an organizations business applications by a technology vendor.

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Cafeteria Plan: A plan in which an employer offers employees a variety of different benefits. The employee is able to choose which benefits would fit their individual needs. Examples of benefits offered in the cafeteria include group-term life insurance, dental insurance, disability and accident insurance, and reimbursement of healthcare expenses.

CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act): Congressional legislation that regulates commercial emails (i.e. commercial advertisement or promotion) and sets clearly defined opt-out standards. Any billing, warranties, product updates or customer service information is not included in this act. E-mail newsletters that are not considered advertisements are also exempt.

Capitated Pricing: Vendors deliver contracted services for a set amount of money per employee per month. This can be a risky strategy for vendors whose profitability is directly tied to how much the services are or are not used (e.g., EAPs).

Career Development: Experiences, training, education and personal improvements undertaken to achieve a career plan.

Career Employee: (See PERMANENT EMPLOYEE)

Career Path: A route chosen by any employer or employee through a series of related horizontal and vertical moves to jobs of ever-increasing responsibilities.

Career: A chosen field of work or employment spanning many years with one or more organization(s) usually involving educational or skill preparation by the individual.

Carrier: A vendor in the employee benefits space. More commonly used in reference to health care. Carriers (e.g., Met Life, Blue Cross, Aetna, etc.) sell their products through Brokers & Consultants, but may also sell to an employer directly.

Carve-Out: The elimination of coverage of a specific category of benefit services (e.g. vision care, mental health/psychological services, or prescription drugs). The employer opts out of certain services with one vendor and contracts another to deliver them.

Certification: An action of the Human Resources Office in supplying a Department Head with the names of eligible applicants for appointment to a position.

Chain of Command: The line of authority extending from the Department Head to a supervisor to an employee.

Chairman: The duly elected Chairman of the TRIBE.

Change Management: A deliberate approach for transitioning individuals or organizations from one state to another in order to manage and monitor the change. Change management can be conducted on a continuous basis, on a regular schedule (such as an annual review), or when deemed necessary on a program-by-program basis.

Class Specification: (See JOB DESCRIPTION)

Class Title: The title assigned to any particular class and used for reference to that position or group of positions.

Class: (Class of positions) - A group of positions with duties and responsibilities sufficiently alike to warrant common treatment in all personnel processes, selection, examination, training, compensation, transfer and sufficiently different from positions in other classes to justify different treatment in one or more of these processes. A class can consist of only one position when no other position of the same class exists.

Classification Plan: The arrangement of class titles by occupational services, group and series with appropriate class code numbers and assigned salary ranges.

Coaching: A method of training an individual or group in order to develop skills or overcome a performance problem. Coaching can be between a manager and a subordinate or an outside professional coach and one or more individuals. There are many coaching methods and models, but close observation, accountability and feedback on progress and performance are usually included.

COBRA: Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. 1985 Federal law that requires employers to offer continued health insurance coverage to terminated employees and their beneficiaries. The coverage may continue for the following cases: termination of employment, change in working hours, change in dependent status or age limitation, separation, divorce, or death.

Collective Bargaining: One or more unions meeting with representatives from an organization to negotiate labor contracts.

Communication: The transmission of information and common understanding from one person or group to another through the use of common language and/or symbols.

Compensation: Pay structures within an organization. It can be linked to employee appraisal. Compensation is effectively managed if performance is measured adequately.

Compensatory Time: The hours absent from duty granted with pay to compensate for services rendered over and above a forty hour work week; granted at one hour of compensatory time for one hour worked.

Competency Modeling: A set of descriptions that identify the skills, knowledge, and behaviors needed to effectively perform in an organization. Competency models assist in clarifying job and work expectations, maximizing productivity, and aligning behavior with organizational strategy.

Competency-Based pay: Competency-based pay, alternately known as skill-based and knowledge-based pay, determines compensation by the type, breadth and depth of skills that employees gain and use in their positions.

Competitive Advantage: In the context of Human Resources, competitive advantage refers to the quality of the employees, as a competing organization’s systems and processes can be copied but not its people. All other things being equal among competing companies, it is the company with better employees that has the competitive advantage.

Complaint: Any expression of dissatisfaction with working conditions or on-the-job relationships that is brought to the attention of the immediate supervisor by the employee.

Confidentiality Agreement: An agreement between an employer and employee in which the employee may not disclose proprietary or confidential information.

Constructive Dismissal: An employer’s behavior (either one serious incident or a pattern of incidents) creates a negative work environment, leading to an employee’s resigning. Such behavior is considered a breach of contract and gives the employee the right to seek compensation in court.

Consultants: An outside individual who supplies professional advice or services to companies for a fee. Large HR consulting firms include Aon, Mercer, Hewitt and Watson Wyatt. Large HR consulting firms typically work with companies who have more than 1,500 employees.

Contingency Recruiting (Search): Contingency recruiters conduct front line talent searches and represent either employers or individuals seeking placement. Contingency firms are not paid unless a candidate is successfully placed.

Contingent Staff: Temporary staff that supplements a company's workforce. Contingent staff may be hired through a staffing firm. Businesses that have fluctuating seasonal staff demands or are in need of temporary call center representatives often use contingent workers.

Contract for Services: An agreement with a self-employed person for a specific job.

Contract of Service: Another term for employment agreement.

Conversion Rate: A conversion rate is defined as the relationship between visitors to a web site and actions considered to be a ‘conversion’, such as a sale or request to receive more information. A 2006 study by WebSideStory showed the following conversion stats for these major search engines: AOL traffic 6.17%, MSN traffic 6.03%, Yahoo traffic 4.07% and Google traffic 3.83%. Search optimization (SEO) is far less expensive than an aggressive paid search campaign and gets you the same amount of traffic. Plus, the effects are longer lasting, and conversions are frequently in the same range (or even higher) than paid ads on engines.

Core Competencies: The particular set of strengths, experience, knowledge and abilities that differentiate a company from its competitors and provide competitive advantage. Employees should possess these qualities in order to advance business goals.

Cost-Benefit Analysis: The ability to measure the costs associated with a specific program, project, or benefit. The cost is then compared to the total benefit or value derived.

Cost-Per-Hire: The costs linked to recruiting talent. These costs can include advertising, agency fees, relocation costs, and training costs.

Council (Legislative): The governing body of the TRIBE that represents the four (4) districts and various communities therein.

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Defined Benefit Plan: A retirement plan that pays participants a lump-sum amount that has been calculated using formulas that can include age, earnings and length of service.

Defined Contribution: A pension plan that clearly defines the amount of contributions, which is usually a percentage of an employees salary. The benefits payable at retirement depend on several factors including future investment return and annuity rate at retirement.

Deregulation: The removal or revision of laws that regulate the supply of goods and services.

Disability: The inability to perform all or part of one's occupational duties because of an accident or illness. This can be due to a sickness, injury or mental condition and does not necessarily have to have been caused by the job itself.

Disability Income Insurance: Health insurance that is paid to a policyholder who experiences a loss of income due to an injury or an illness. Disability insurance plans pay a portion of the salary of a disabled worker until his/her retirement age.

Disciplinary procedure: A standardized process that an organization commits to when dealing with an employee who has breached the terms of employment in some way. If this procedure is not standardized and fair, the organization may face discrimination or other legal charges.

Discrimination: The favoring of one group of people, resulting in unfair treatment of other groups.

Disease Management: An information-based process involving the continuous improvement of care (prevention, treatment and management) throughout the delivery of health care. Effective disease management can mean decreased health care costs.

Distance Learning: Educational programs using instruction via video or audio tapes, computers etc. instead of attending a class in one centralized location.

Distributive bargaining: A negotiation between competing parties that involves the distribution of resources. One party prevails, to the detriment of the other.

Dual Labor Markets: a situation in an organization where a smaller Core Labor Force and a Peripheral Labor Force co-exist.

Due diligence: In mergers and acquisitions, the process of carefully investigating the details of an investment or purchase to assess risk and potential value and reward.

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EAP: An employer-sponsored program that is designed to assist employees whose job performance is being adversely affected by such personal stresses as substance abuse, addictions, marital problems, family troubles, and domestic violence. For every dollar invested in an EAP, employers save approximately $5 to $16. The average annual cost for an EAP ranges from $12 to $20 per employee. Source: US Department of Labor.

E-Recruitment: Web-based software that handles the various processes included in recruiting and onboarding job candidates. These may include workforce planning, requisitioning, candidate acquisition, applicant tracking and reporting (regulatory or company analytics).

E-Learning: E-learning is a method of education via the Internet or other computer related resources. It presents just-in-time information in a flexible learning plan. E-learning can be combined with face-to-face courses for a blended learning approach.

Emotional Intelligence: Based on the book of the same name by Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize, assess and manage their own and others’ emotions.

Employee Assessments: Tests used to help employers in pre-hire situations to select candidates best suited for open positions. These tests can sometimes be taken via the Internet and can provide employees with effective training, assist managers in becoming more effective, and promote people into appropriate positions. Types of assessments include those to determine personality, aptitude and skills.

Employee Relations: Developing, maintaining, and improving the relationship between employer and employee by effectively and proactively communicating with employees, processing grievances/disputes, etc.

Employee retention: Practices and policies designed to create a work environment that makes employees want to stay with the organization, thus reducing turnover.

Employee Self-Service: A program that allows employees to handle many job-related tasks normally conducted by HR departments including benefits enrollment, and updating personal information. Employees can access the information through the company's intranet, kiosks, or other Web-based applications.

Employment Branding: A strategy designed to make an organization appealing as a good place to work. This targeted marketing effort utilizes both print and Internet tactics and attempts to shape the perceptions of potential employees, current employees and the public / investment community.

Empowerment: Giving employees the resources, skills and authority necessary to share power with management and make decisions. Employees are then held accountable for their decisions and rewarded if appropriate.

Enterprise Compensation Management (ECM): The automation of the compensation process to assist organizations in the acquisition, management and optimization of its workforce.

ERISA (Employment Retirement Income Security Act): A federal law that governs pension and welfare employee benefit plans. ERISA requires plans to provide participants with plan information including plan features and funding. It also requires that plans provide fiduciary responsibilities for those who manage and control assets. It gives participants the right to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty.

ERP: Short for enterprise resource planning, a business management system that integrates all facets of the business, including manufacturing, sales, marketing, finance and human resources. This is slightly different than best-of-breed HRIS applications and the industry continues to debate the merits of one versus the other. With the growing popularity of web-based applications (ease of use, lower costs) ERP seems to be losing out, especially in the mid-market.

Equity theory: The idea that people desire to be treated fairly and thus compare their own contributions to the workplace—and resulting rewards—against those of their coworkers, to determine if they are being treated fairly.

Executive Coaching: Executive coaching is a professional relationship between a Coach and an Executive, or an Executive Team. The goal is to assist executives with positive leadership development. It can be provided in one-on-one sessions or via the Internet.

Executive Search: An agency or organization used by employers to assist them with the selection and placement of candidates for senior-level managerial or professional positions.

Exempt Versus Non-Exempt Employees: The difference between exempt and nonexempt employees is who gets paid overtime and who doesn't. The U.S. Department of Labor specifically designates certain classes of workers as exempt, including executives, administrative personnel, outside salespeople, highly skilled computer-related employees, doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. Managers who hire and fire employees and who spend less than half their time performing the same duties as their employees are typically also exempt employees. In general, the more responsibility and independence or discretion an employee has, the more likely the employee is to be considered exempt. Generally, any worker performing repetitive tasks is most likely nonexempt and must be paid overtime.

Exit Interview: The final meeting between management, usually someone in the HR department, and an employee leaving the company. Information on why the employee is leaving is gathered to gain insight into work conditions and possible changes or solutions.

Expatriate: An employee who is transferred to work abroad on a long-term job assignment.

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Fixed Term Employment: An employee agrees to work for a fixed term—until a certain date, at the completion of a project, etc.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA): FSAs allow employees to set aside a portion of their earnings on a pre-tax basis into separate spending accounts to#p fund allowable health care and/or dependent day care expenses. The funds must be segregated as per IRS regulations.

Flexible Work Arrangements: Schedules that allow employees to structure their work hours around their personal responsibilities. Examples include flextime, job sharing, telecommuting and a compressed workweek. Home sourcing has become a popular flexible work concept in recent years. In this arrangement, employees work full-time from their homes.

Forced Ranking: Also known as a vitality curve, this is a system of work performance evaluation in which employees are compared against each other instead of against fixed standards. Based on the “20/80 Rule” idea, that 20 percent of employees do 80 percent of the meaningful, productive work, the top 20 percent of workers are rewarded and, oftentimes, the bottom 10 percent are fired.

Freedom of association: The right of workers to join a union and to bargain collectively. This right is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act of 1993.

Functional job analysis: Developed by the U.S. Department of Labor, functional job analysis is a method of gathering specific and detailed job information. This information can be used to write job descriptions.

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General Agents: General agents are middleman for carriers and brokers and usually focus on the 250 employee market. Usually an individual appointed by a life or health insurer to administer its business in a given territory. GAs are important for companies who sell to small employers or brokers e.g., benefits administration software providers.

Goal Setting: Assigning specific, attainable goals to a person, team or organization. Goal setting is a motivational technique, as workers often rise to the challenges given them.

Good faith bargaining: A requirement of the Employment Relations Act of 2000 that all parties to a contract conduct negotiations with a willingness to reach an agreement on new contract terms.

Grievance: a complaint by an employee due to an alleged violation of law or collective bargaining or dissatisfaction with work conditions.

Gross misconduct: An action so serious that it calls for the immediate dismissal of an employee. Examples include fighting, drunkenness, harassment of others and theft.

Group dynamics: The way that people interact within a group that determines how it functions and how effective the group is.

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Hawthorne Effect: The theory that organizations can motivate their employees as much or more by expressing concern for problems as by actually improving their work conditions. This personal interest results in increased performance, according to the observations of productivity researcher George Elton Mayo.

Hierarchy of needs: A theory created by psychologist Abraham Maslow that states humans constantly strive to meet a series of needs, going from physical (food and shelter) all the way to spiritual (self-actualization).
HSA: Health savings account, is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States who are enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). The funds contributed to the account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. Unlike a flexible spending account (FSA), funds roll over and accumulate year to year if not spent. HSAs are owned by the individual, which differentiates them from the company-owned Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) that is an alternate tax-deductible source of funds paired with HDHPs. HSA funds may currently be used to pay for qualified medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability or penalty. However, beginning in early 2011 you will no longer be able to pay for OTC medications with HSA dollars (Sec. 9003 of H.R. 3590). Withdrawals for non-medical expenses are treated very similarly to those in an IRA in that they may provide tax advantages if taken after retirement age, and they incur penalties if taken earlier. These accounts are a component of consumer driven health care.

HR Audit: A periodic measurement of human resources effectiveness, conducted by internal staff or with the use of an HR audit system.

HR Generalist: An individual who is able to perform more than one diversified human resources function, rather then specializing in one specific function.

Human Capital: The collective skills, knowledge and competencies of an organization’s people that enables them to create economic value.

Human Capital Management: The challenge of recruiting and retaining qualified candidates, and helping new employees fit into an organization. The goal is to keep employees contributing to the organizations intellectual capital by offering competitive salary, benefits and development opportunities. The major functions of human capital management include Recruitment, Compensation, Benefits and Training.

Human Resource Information System (HRIS): Business software systems that assist in the management of human resource data (e.g. payroll, job title, candidate contact information). Some of the larger HRIS platforms include SAP and Peoplesoft.

Human Resource Outsourcing (HRO): A contractual agreement between an employer and an external third-party provider whereby the employer transfers responsibility and management for certain HR, benefit or training-related functions or services to the external provider.

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Incentive pay:
Additional compensation used as a motivational tool to exceed specified work goals.

Independent contractor: A self-employed person who works for another person or organization on a contract basis.

Individual employment agreement: A written document that describes the legal relationship between an employer and employee.

Industrial relations: A field of study that examines the relationship between employer and employees, particularly groups of workers in unions.

Intangible rewards: A subjective benefit that has no monetary value, such as praise for excellent performance.

ISO 9000: A set of internationally-accepted standards, created by the International Organization for Standardization, for quality management and quality assurance. These standards apply uniformly across all industries and company size. Companies can receive ISO 9000 certification for meeting these standards.

Job analysis: The process of gathering information about the requirements and necessary skills of a job in order to create a job description.

Job Board: An online location that provides an up-to-date listing of current job vacancies in various industries. Applicants are able to apply for employment through the job board itself. Many job boards have a variety of additional services to help job seekers manage their careers and their ongoing job search processes.

Job Description: A written statement that explains the responsibilities and qualifications of a given job, based on a job analysis. The job description usually includes specific required tasks as well as an overview of the position and whom the employee reports to.

Job evaluation: A comparison of one job with other jobs in a company for the purpose of assessing fair compensation.

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Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Tasks that are central to the success of a business and show, when measured, whether the business is advancing toward its strategic goals.

KSAs: The Knowledge, Skills and Abilities an employee needs to meet the requirements of a job.

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Labor force participation rate: The ratio between the labor force (all those currently employed or seeking work) and the nation’s total working-age population.

Labor Market: A geographical region (local, national or international) in which labor transactions occur—employers find workers and workers find work.

Leadership Development: Activities, whether formal or informal, that enhance leadership qualities

LIFO (Last In, First Out): A method of determining who should be laid off in which the most recent hires are laid off first.

Lump sum payment: A single large payment given to an employee, usually instead of more and smaller pay increases.

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Managed Care: A health care system in which the provider manages the care of the individual for a fixed fee. The opposite of this preventive intervention (or, population-based) approach is fee-for-service. Managed care emphasizes wellness and prevention.

Marketing PR: Marketing PR is the combining of what are traditionally two separate departments, public relations and marketing, to one integrated front whereby all marketing and PR activities focus on reaching buyers directly. Marketing PR incorporates both traditional marketing and PR tactics with social media and other Internet-based initiatives that support the measurable goals of online publicity, increased web site traffic, search-optimization (SEO) and, lead generation. A key difference between traditional PR and Marketing PR is the use of a press release. Traditional PR writes and distributes a press release for the sole purpose of securing media placements. Marketing PR does this as well but also uses the press release to enhance website SEO, increase web site traffic and generate qualified sales leads.

Matrix organization: Used primarily in the management of large projects, a horizontal authority structure in which teams are created from various departments and report to more than one boss.

Mediation Services: The use of a trained third party to settle an employment dispute. The third party has no legal authority and so must use persuasion to settle the dispute.

Mentoring: An informal training process between a more experienced person and a junior employee.

Minimum wage: The lowest amount an employer can pay an hourly employee. This rate is set by the federal government

Mission Statement: A description of an organization’s purpose: what it does, what markets it serves and what direction it is going in.

Motivational Theories: Psychological models that attempt to explain what motivates people. These theories can help employers design incentive strategies.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): A well-known personality type assessment designed to measure people’s psychological preferences. The personality is divided into four dichotomies, with 16 personality types possible. The system is partly based on the theories of psychologist Carl Jung.

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Negotiation: Bargaining between two or more parties with the goal of reaching consensus or resolving a problem.

Nepotism: Preferential hiring of relatives and friends, even though others might be more qualified for those positions.

"Non-Traditional" versus "Traditional" Employee Benefits: Traditional benefits include life, retirement, health, and disability benefits. Non-traditional benefits include various types of life management benefits such as EAPs, child and elder care counseling and referral, etc. (see life management benefits). According to the US Chamber of Commerce, health insurance is the most expensive single benefit cost, accounting for about 20% of total benefits, or about $2,666 per employee on average. (as per a 1999 study.)

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Observation interview: A method of assessing job requirements and skills by observing the employee at work, followed by an interview with the employee for further assessment and insight.

Offshoring: The act of moving work to an overseas location to take advantage of lower labor costs. Offshoring usually involves manufacturing; information technology and back-office services like call centers and bill processing. Companies can build its own work center abroad, establish a foreign division, or create a subsidiary in remote locations.

Onboarding: The process of moving a new hire from applicant to employee status ensuring that paperwork is done, benefits administration is underway, and orientation is completed.

Organic Search Results: Search results returned by search engines that are based purely on the content of the pages and page popularity. Organic search results are not categorized directory results, or pay-per-click advertising results. According to, total money spent on search engine optimization represents only 12% of what is spent on pay-for-click advertising (PPC). What makes this statistic so startling is that it is that organic search engine results (those that show up in natural "free" listings) are better noticed, read, and clicked on than the paid listings.

Organizational Culture: The values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that characterize an organization. It is the unwritten workplace ethos that is picked up by new employees.

Organizational Development: A planned organization-wide effort to improve and increase the organizations effectiveness, productivity, return on investment and overall employee job satisfaction through planned interventions in the organization's processes.

Orientation: Introducing new hires to the organization and its policies, benefits and culture. Training and familiarization with each department are sometimes included.

OSHA: The Occupation Safety and Health Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor. The agency’s goal is to promote health and reduce accidents, injury and death in the workplace.

Outplacement: A benefit offered by a downsizing employer to assist former employees in re-entering the job market. Assistance can include job training, resume workshops, interview practice and career counseling.

Outsourcing: Contracting out non-core functions, such as payroll, benefits administration or manufacturing, to save money and focus on what the company does best.

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Pareto chart: A quality assurance tool that ranks information, like reasons for certain problems, in descending order. The goal is to identify the most serious problems so improvements can be made.

Payroll: Documentation created and maintained by the employer containing such information as hours worked, salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, vacation/sick pay, contributions to qualified health and pension plans, net pay and deductions.

Peer appraisal: A performance assessment given by an employee’s peers who have observed the employee’s job performance.

Performance Appraisal: A periodic review and evaluation of an individual's job performance.

Performance Improvement: A plan to improve an employee’s performance in which the performance problem is identified, modified and monitored.

Performance Management: The process of maintaining or improving employee job performance through the use of performance assessment tools, coaching and counseling. The ultimate goal is to better meet organizational objectives.

Performance Planning: An organization-wide plan to manage employees and their performance wherein goals are set for employees, departments and the organization as a whole.

Plan Sponsor: An entity that has adopted and has maintained an employee-benefit plan. The plan sponsor is often an employer, but may be a union or a professional association. The Plan Sponsor is responsible for determining employee participation and the amount of benefits involved.

Probationary Arrangement: An agreement between an employer and employee that the employee will work for a set amount of time on a trial or probationary period.

Professional Employer Organization (PEO): A staffing service that is contracted to assume the employers responsibilities and risk for his/her workforce. Employees are legally co-employed by the PEO. The PEO is responsible for such actions as the preparation of accurate payroll checks, the remittance of payroll taxes to federal and state jurisdictions and the preparation of various tax information.

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Quality management: A system to make sure that a product or service meets standards of excellence, and that the process by which the product or service is created is efficient and effective as well. The three key components of this system are quality control, quality assurance and quality improvement.

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Random Testing: Employer-administered drug and alchohol tests conducted at random intervals.

Recruitment: The process of finding and hiring the best-qualified candidate for a position.

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO): The outsourcing of the recruiting process to a third party.

Redundancy: Eliminating jobs or job categories as they become unnecessary to the functioning of an organization.

Replacement charts: A tool in succession planning in which current and future job vacancies, as well as the number of employees in currently filled jobs, are visually summarized.

Request for proposal (RFP): A request sent by a company to a vendor to submit a bid for a product or service. The bid includes a timeline, a description of the good or service, the type of contract, cost and other specifics.

Restrictive covenant: Also known as a negative covenant; a provision in a contract excluding key employees from working for competitors in a certain geographic area and for a certain length of time.

Return on investment (ROI): The percentage of profit on an investment compared to the cost of that investment. Also called the rate of return or yield.

Right to manage: The “right” of management to conduct business without having to answer to internal or external forces for their decisions.

Risk Management: The use of insurance and other strategies to minimize an organizations exposure to liability in the event a loss or injury occurs.

RSS (Real Simple Syndication): A commonly used protocol for delivering web-based content such as blogs. RSS is an XML-based format that allows webmasters to provide fresh web content in a succinct manner. It is fast becoming an easy and affordable way to spread content.

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SEO (Search Engine Optimization): The process of optimizing a web site (e.g., identifying and placing targeted keywords on web pages) to ensure the site places well when queried on search engines. It is important for corporate web sites to optimize their visibility on search engines. See .

Self-Funded (Self-Insured) Plan: A health care insurance program in which employers (usually larger companies) pay the specified health care costs of their employees rather than insuring them. Self-funded plans may be self-administered, or the employer may contract a third party administrator (TPA) for administrative services only (ASO).

Social Media: Internet sites and services that allows users to generate and exchange content and interact with each other in a variety of ways. Forums, podcasts, bookmarking, blogs and social networking sites are types of social media. These types of interaction can be used for collaboration, communication and entertainment. HR professionals use social media to source candidates and create peer networks.

Social Networking: The building of online communities of people who have common interests. LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace facilitate these interconnected systems. HR departments have begun to incorporate social networking into the recruiting process as a means to attract and evaluate candidates.

Sourcing: The developing of lists of potential candidates. Also relates to the task of requisitioning, or creating job descriptions, approval workflows and actual job postings. Most e-recruitment software providers include modules for requisitioning.

Staffing: A method of finding, evaluating, and establishing a working relationship with future employees. They may be current employees or future employees.

Strategic HRM: Aligning human resource management (HRM) with the strategic goals of an organization.

Strategic Planning: The process of considering an organization’s future, usually three to five years ahead, and then working backward to create strategic plans and allot resources to realize this desired future state. This includes a hiring strategy.

Succession Planning: The process of identifying long-range needs and cultivating a supply of internal talent to meet those future needs. Used to anticipate the future needs of the organization and assist in finding, assessing and developing the human capital necessary to the strategy of the organization.

Summary dismissal: The immediate firing of an employee, usually due to an act of gross misconduct.

Suspension: An employee is sent home for a period of time, usually without pay, as a disciplinary measure.

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Talent Management: Also called Human Capital Management, the process of recruiting, managing, assessing, developing and maintaining employees.

Tangible rewards: Gifts in the form of merchandise, gift certificates, etc. that can be physically held or touched.

Third-Party Administrator (TPA): An organization that is responsible for the administration of insurance for a self-insured group. It does not have any responsibility for paying claims. The self-insured group is financially responsible. (See self-insured group)

Total Remuneration: An employee’s complete annual pay package, including benefit and pension plans, bonuses, incentives, and paychecks.

Training and development: Providing information and instruction that equips employees to better perform specific tasks or attain a higher level of knowledge.

Training Needs Analysis: An assessment to determine the training needs of a group of employees, taking into account the employees’ prior education and skills and the desired outcome once training is completed.

Turnover: The number of employees lost and gained over a given time period.

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Underwriter: A person or organization that ensures money will be available to pay for losses that are insured. An insurance company can be considered an underwriter.

Union: Workers who organize a united group, usually related to the kind of work they do, to collectively bargain for better work conditions, pay or benefit increases, etc.

Unjustifiable dismissal: Firing an employee in a way that the courts do not find justifiable (i.e. unfairly or in violation of the employment contract).

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Viral Marketing: Any marketing technique that induces people (or web sites) to pass on a marketing message to other people or sites, creating a growth in the message's visibility and effect. A classic example of this concept was Hotmail whereby each email sent via Hotmail included Hotmail's own advertisement in the footer (Get your Free Email....").

Virtual HR: The use of various types of technology to provide employees with self-serve options. Voice response systems, employee kiosks are common methods.

Voluntary Benefits: Benefits that are paid for by the employee through payroll deductions. The employer pays for administration. Examples of these benefits include life insurance, dental, vision, disability income, auto insurance, long-term care coverage, medical supplement plans and homeowners insurance.

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Wage drift: The difference between basic pay and total earnings, due to a variety of possible factors such as overtime, bonuses, gender, age and performance.

Whistle blower: An employee who publicly reveals wrongdoing taking place within his/her company. Whistle blowers are protected from retaliation by the Protected Disclosures Act of 2000.

Work-life Balance: The attempt to balance work and personal life in order to have a better quality of life. A person with a balanced life is an asset to his or her business, as he or she experiences greater fulfillment at work and at home.

Work/Life Employee Benefits: Work/Life benefits are "non-traditional" employee benefits that assist employees in managing their lives. Employers purchase these services from vendors and they are offered to employees as benefits. These services can make the difference in attracting and retaining employees. Common life management benefits include: child and elder care referral services, employee assistance program (EAP), concierge, legal assistance, and emergency back-up childcare.

Workforce Planning: The assessment of the current workforce in order to predict future needs. This can consist of both demand planning and supply planning. Many e-recruitment software providers include modules for workforce planning.

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