September 16, 2014

3 Buzzwords That Actually Mean Something

Buzzwords. Man, those are so cliche.

Has your team ever set aside time to “circle back end of day” in order to “ideate” on the latest “disruptive” tech? How about brainstorming ways to reduce “efforting” through “incentivization” on “task cycles?” Such phrases are painful to read, but not uncommon to hear in many offices.

The act of creating new workplace vernacular, or at least copying the verbal inventions of others, has been common practice in business for generations – from start-ups to large corporations. For many, this language is one of the defining characteristics of their company or culture. Of course, that’s always been it’s purpose: a vehicle for making workers feel a greater connection to their jobs.

The problem is too often workplace jargon takes on a life of its own, serving to negatively affect the way we approach work (and also make grammar enthusiasts cringe). Empty language and vague phrasing can pass for awhile in “fake it ‘til you make it” pitches, but ultimately clear and precise communication helps everyone work efficiently and with accountability.

That’s not to say that all office speak is wasted air. There are business buzzwords that have great intentions, or try to clarify a new subject. However, the true definitions of these words depend on the speaker.

Here are three value-add business buzzwords actually worth drilling down. Translation: These three phrases are more than just buzzwords – they’re emerging workplace challenges every company needs to explore.

Employee Engagement

The definitions and methods for effective employee engagement differ, but recent workplace studies prove every office HAS to address it. Gallup’s most recent “State of the Workplace” survey included responses from more than 350,000 workers across a three-year period – 70 percent of which defined themselves as “not engaged” and emotionally disconnected from their workplaces. That doesn’t paint the prettiest picture for productivity, does it?

From not having opinions heard, not having work valued, or not being committed to the missions and values of a company, there’s a myriad of reasons a worker could feel disengaged. However, the common outcome of disengagement is a negative influence on colleagues and a negative effect on a business’ bottom line.

Gamification (cue another buzzword eye roll) offers a variety of options for creating employee interaction and improving motivation, be it through collaboration or competition. Programs can be used to create employee-friendly processes in workplace training and professional development, as well as generate more buy-in for company initiatives. Plus, our recent survey of over 390 office workers showed that employees actually want to participate in such programs. Of course, before implementing any plans, the first step is talking to employees about what is important to them. Each company must define employee engagement for itself, then put together a plan of action to achieve it.

Work-Life Integration

Technology has made it increasingly possible to integrate work into your daily life, which makes older definitions of a work-life balance pretty out-dated. The traditional office setup is fading, business hours are blurred, and remote connectivity is at an all-time high.

However, different personalities, cultures, industries, and especially generations often have conflicting priorities when it comes to work and life. While millennials who have grown up with technology and constant connectivity may have no problem answering emails and performing their work outside the office, many Generation Xers and Baby Boomers still desire a set schedule and a clean break from work.

“There is no one-size-fits-all because we are all at different stages of our lives and have different priorities and goals,” the Stress Management Society’s Nick Achilleos said in Eden Springs’ recent guide to employee motivation. “Getting the balance right supports us in achieving our goals, as well as in our overall enjoyment of our day to day lives. This is not without its challenges, and effort is required to consciously determine where we wish to spend our time each day.”

Technology continues creating more opportunities to integrate work with life (both positively and negatively) in order to achieve that difficult balance. This workplace evolution makes it important for hiring managers to clearly define the expectations for each role, then clearly communicate those expectations to the team. However, there is also great responsibility on the individual in managing work-life integration. An employee must set his or her own boundaries while still following through on professional commitments. An open dialogue is key to ensure both sides can agree on a manageable workload, as well as the schedule and manner by which it can be achieved.

Datification

Big data. Small data. Data about data. Somehow and someway, it all has value. Many may not fully understand what to do with business intelligence or Big Data, but there is no denying nearly every industry is becoming “datafied.” The increased connectivity of people, businesses, and normal physical objects (hello, Internet of Things) is making it possible to measure everything. As always, what gets measured gets managed.

Market trends show a large number of small-to-medium sized businesses are currently exploring business intelligence options to identify new opportunities and gather important insight from the data collected. The question for businesses moving forward shouldn’t be if they should start collecting data, but what data they should collect and how they should use it. While there are certainly gray areas surrounding how companies collect and use data, the ability to gather even small amounts of data can help business leaders make informed decisions and improve their products. The more a business can learn about what its customers like and want, the more effectively it can serve its customers.

From a grocery store’s loyalty program tracking customer buying habits to a classroom iPad recording information about how a student completes an assignment, there is seemingly no end to the type of data that can be collected. It’s up to each business to define what they want to measure, and what they want to achieve.

Engaging employees, integrating work and life, and evolving your business in an increasingly “datafied” market are clear challenges for the modern workplace. The best solutions will vary from business to business; however, they all start with a company defining its culture and goals, then communicating those ideas to its workforce.

Does your business have any game-changing buzzwords with a robust list of proven deliverables that push the envelope? Share your favorite (or least favorite) in the comments below.

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