When I first started my job, I wasn’t exactly fluent in workplace jargon. I had just graduated from university and hadn’t ever been in a corporate environment, and straight off the bat there were acronyms being thrown around that I would surreptitiously google so not to seem out of the loop.
For example, a term that we use a lot is ‘BD’ – which I now know stands for business development. However, when I first joined, I’d never heard the phrase, and told myself I would ask what it stood for. I subsequently forgot, and then when the next meeting rolled around a fortnight later it was already too late.
Now, it obviously wasn’t too late – but in my dramatic, Gen Z, new worker brain, the idea of admitting I didn’t know something that I had been pretending to know the whole time was mortifying.
Interestingly, a recent study has found that workplace jargon makes 48% of Gen Z and Millennial workers feel less included in the workplace, and 46% of them cited how this barrier to understanding had led them to make a mistake at work.
This can lead to communication barriers, productivity stunting, and a general lack of cohesion in the workplace. But is the solution as simple as teaching new, younger employees this jargon so that they can begin to speak the language?
The short answer is no – and this is because younger people now have an entire language of their own.
We have dubbed this non-verbal online language as ‘Cybernese’. It is essentially online etiquette, but to those who find themselves in Gen X or above, there are a lot of meanings hidden in things that may seem completely harmless. For example, emojis may seem straight forward, but they are a minefield of double-entendres that could be HR horror stories waiting to happen if someone isn’t well-versed in this digital tongue. The language even spans to things such as Zoom backgrounds or punctuating sentences (if you text a Gen Z worker with full stops at the end of your messages, it’s more than likely they will assume you are being passive aggressive, even though this is just grammar!).
What we’re seeing is two older generations using old-fashioned lingo that younger workers don’t understand, and two younger generations who have got their own online language that more midlife workers have not come to grips with yet. So, what can employers do to create an inclusive environment for all?
The best approach would be to know a bit of both. Workplace jargon is not a necessity, but much like a habit, it would be hard to suddenly quit using it cold turkey. And besides, it has euphemistic tendencies which make communicating tasks easier, so it can be a positive thing. But if you’re going to use it, be considerate to your audience. If you’re talking to an employee who you know is familiar with these terms, then go right ahead. If you’re talking to a new or younger employee, then it might be best to avoid them to mitigate the risk of things getting lost in translation.
When it comes to Cybernese however, it may be worth employers making the extra effort to ensure that all their staff members are up to speed with this emerging language. This is because as remote and hybrid work settles into normalcy, a lot of communication and interaction between colleagues will be happening virtually. Here, it will be important to become well-versed in Cybernese so that communication is clear and appropriate (you can check out our video for how to avoid emoji-geddon for some examples of this).
If employers are able to recognise and understand the best ways of communicating with members of staff, they will be able to give them the clarity that is so important to ensuring productivity and high-quality output. To discuss how we can help you ensure your culture has inclusion at its core, please get in touch with us.
In both the US and the UK employers are waking up to the fact that the workforce is ageing. And they should, because for the first time in history, over 1/3rd of the working population are over 50!
There is growing evidence, however, that organizations on both sides of the Atlantic are failing to act.
In the UK the Chartered Management Institute (CIM) works with business and education to inspire people to become skilled leaders.
Their research found that although 85% of managers taking part in a recent survey said their organization was age inclusive, only 5% reported proactive efforts to recruit older workers.
Ann Francke, the CMI’s chief executive, described this as “a wake-up call for all organizations to practice what they preach”.
Meanwhile, in the US AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age.
In a recent interview AARP’s CEO, Jo Ann Jenkins, highlighted that “78% of our members recently surveyed told us they had faced some type of age discrimination in the last year ... Yet, at the same time, older people are going to be the solution for many companies that are trying to hire people to deal with labor shortages and bring folks back into the workplace.”
OrgShakers’ Therese Procter reflected at the end of last year that “for many years the HR community (me included!) put our energy, focus and effort on progressive processes and practices that were supporting the needs of the younger working generation. Many of these innovations were ground-breaking – especially around maternity/paternity, IVF, adoption, childcare, etc. – and we should be proud of what we achieved.
“However, the ageing workforce means that we now have to widen our focus to meet the wellbeing and mental health needs of those in midlife and to consider how they can help them to live their best life while performing their job.”
As a proud midlife HR practitioner, Therese’s aim – along with her likeminded OrgShakers colleagues around the world – is to shine a light for employers on the issues people face at midlife and to provide education, policies, training, seminars, and guidelines to ensure organizations can maximize the performance of an age diverse workforce.
If you would like to know more, please get in touch: email@example.com
Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020