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Top HR terms any HR professional should know today

Having you here reading this article can mean two things: either you're a new HR professional eager to learn more about the job, or you're an expert who wants to check your knowledge. Both are okay. We've got you covered with our top 27 HR terms you need to know, divided into six crucial categories reflecting today's industry needs.

Alexandros Pantelakis
Alexandros Pantelakis

HR content specialist at Workable, delivering in-depth, data-driven articles to offer insights into industry and tech trends.


Whether it’s terminology or jargon, the HR mind is always ready to learn and face new challenges. You’re the driver, and there are many elements of hiring that you can navigate with the support of key terms and practices on the job.

Are you ready to explore a few of the most significant ones for your day-to-day work?

You’ll have to wait a little bit longer because we believe it’s better to explain our thought process while crafting this article. We didn’t want to add more confusion, so we divided the terms into six major categories: practicality, fundamental concepts, technology integration, compliance and legal, current trends, and core HR functions.

Now, you are ready. Let’s explore each category and provide additional context on the HR terms every HR professional should know today.


This category focuses on practical HR practices and policies that enhance operational efficiency and employee well-being, such as managing absences, implementing telecommuting, and retaining employees.

1. Absence management

Absence management involves policies and procedures designed to reduce absenteeism in the workplace. Effective absence management ensures that employee absences are handled in a way that minimizes disruption to operations.

This includes tracking employee absences, understanding the reasons behind them, and implementing strategies to reduce absenteeism. It can involve flexible working conditions, health and wellness programs, and clear communication of attendance policies.

Good absence management can improve employee productivity, reduce costs associated with absenteeism, and enhance overall workplace morale.

2. Full-time Equivalent (FTE)

Full-time Equivalent (FTE) is a unit that indicates the workload of an employed person in a way that makes workloads comparable across various contexts.

One FTE is equivalent to one employee working full-time.

It’s used to measure the total workforce capacity by converting part-time hours into full-time equivalent hours.

For example, two part-time employees working 20 hours each would be equivalent to one FTE. This metric is crucial for budgeting, financial analysis, and understanding workforce productivity.

3. Telecommuting

Telecommuting, also known as remote work, allows employees to perform their job duties from outside the traditional office environment. This can be from home, a co-working space, or any other location with internet access.

Telecommuting offers flexibility, reduces commuting time and costs, and can increase job satisfaction.

For employers, it can lower overhead costs and attract talent from a broader geographic area. However, it requires robust communication tools, clear expectations, and a strong company culture to ensure productivity and engagement.

4. Unlimited PTO (Paid Time Off)

Unlimited Paid Time Off (PTO) is a policy where employees can take as much time off as they need, as long as their work is completed and deadlines are met.

This policy is designed to promote a healthy work-life balance, reduce burnout, and increase employee satisfaction.

It shifts the focus from tracking hours to achieving results. While it offers flexibility and autonomy, it requires a high level of trust and responsibility from employees and may not be suitable for all types of jobs or industries.

5. Employee retention

Employee retention refers to the ability of an organization to keep its employees and reduce turnover.

High retention rates indicate a positive work environment, competitive compensation, opportunities for career advancement, and strong leadership.

Strategies to improve retention include offering professional development, recognizing and rewarding performance, providing a supportive company culture, and ensuring work-life balance.

Effective employee retention strategies can lead to increased productivity, reduced recruitment and training costs, and a more experienced and cohesive workforce.

Fundamental concepts

Fundamental Concepts cover the core principles and essential knowledge every HR professional should understand, including employment laws, employee engagement, onboarding processes, and job analysis.

1. Employee engagement

Employee engagement refers to the emotional commitment and involvement an employee has towards their organization and its goals.

Engaged employees are more productive, motivated, and likely to stay with the company.

Strategies to boost engagement include providing meaningful work, recognizing achievements, offering professional development opportunities, and fostering a positive workplace culture. High employee engagement can lead to better performance, lower turnover, and a more positive organizational atmosphere.

2. Onboarding

Onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into an organization and equipping them with the necessary tools, knowledge, and skills to become effective team members. It typically includes orientation sessions, training programs, and introductions to company policies and culture.

Effective onboarding helps new hires adjust quickly, improving job satisfaction and retention rates. It is a critical step in ensuring employees feel welcomed, valued, and prepared for their roles.

3. Job Analysis

Job analysis involves systematically studying a job to determine its essential duties, responsibilities, skills, and qualifications. This process helps create accurate job descriptions, which are essential for hiring, performance evaluations, and compensation management.

Job analysis also identifies the physical and mental requirements of a position, ensuring that employees are well-matched to their roles. Accurate job analysis supports effective HR practices by aligning job requirements with organizational goals.

4. Compensation and Benefits

Compensation and benefits refer to the total rewards an employee receives for their work, including salary, wages, bonuses, health insurance, retirement plans, and other perks.

A well-designed compensation and benefits package can attract and retain top talent, boost employee morale, and enhance job satisfaction.

It’s important for HR professionals to stay informed about market trends and ensure that their offerings are competitive and align with organizational objectives and budget constraints.

Technology integration

Technology Integration involves leveraging digital tools and software to streamline HR functions, including applicant tracking systems, HR software, video interview platforms, and payroll solutions.

1. Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is software that manages the recruitment and hiring process. It automates job postings, screens resumes, and tracks candidates through the hiring stages.

ATS helps HR professionals streamline recruitment by organizing candidate information, ensuring compliance with hiring regulations, and facilitating communication with applicants. By using an ATS, companies can reduce the time and effort required for recruitment, improve the quality of hires, and create a more efficient and organized hiring process.

2. HR software

HR software refers to digital solutions designed to automate and manage various human resources functions. These include payroll, benefits administration, performance management, employee records, and recruitment.

HR software improves efficiency by centralizing data, facilitating reporting, and enabling self-service for employees. It helps HR departments reduce manual tasks, ensure compliance with regulations, and enhance overall HR service delivery. With the right HR software, organizations can improve data accuracy, streamline HR processes, and support strategic decision-making.

3. Video interview software

Video interview software enables organizations to conduct interviews with candidates remotely. This technology facilitates live video interviews or allows candidates to record their responses to predefined questions.

It is particularly useful for screening candidates who are geographically dispersed. Video interview software can save time and costs associated with travel, provide flexibility in scheduling, and offer a more convenient experience for both candidates and interviewers.

Additionally, it can be integrated with ATS and other HR systems to streamline the hiring process.

4. Learning Management System (LMS)

A Learning Management System (LMS) is software that manages and delivers educational courses, training programs, or learning and development initiatives. It allows organizations to create, track, and manage employee training activities.

An LMS provides a centralized platform for e-learning, offering features like course enrollment, progress tracking, and assessments. It supports employee development by providing accessible and consistent training, ensuring compliance with industry standards, and helping measure the effectiveness of training programs.

5. Payroll Software

Payroll software automates the process of managing employee compensation.

It calculates wages, withholds taxes, and ensures employees are paid accurately and on time. Payroll software can also handle deductions, bonuses, benefits, and generate payroll reports.

By automating these tasks, the software reduces errors, ensures compliance with tax regulations, and saves time for HR professionals. Efficient payroll software enhances the overall accuracy and reliability of the payroll process, improving employee satisfaction and trust.

Compliance and legal

This category emphasizes the importance of adhering to legal standards and regulations in HR practices, covering topics such as employment laws, equal opportunity, safety regulations, and family leave policies.

1. At-will Employment

At-will employment is a legal doctrine where either the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, or for no reason, with or without notice. This framework offers flexibility but provides less job security for employees.

Exceptions to at-will employment include termination for discriminatory reasons or violations of public policy. Understanding this doctrine is crucial for HR professionals to manage terminations properly and ensure compliance with legal standards, thereby minimizing potential legal risks and fostering fair workplace practices.

2. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) refers to the principle that all individuals should have equal access to employment opportunities without discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

EEO laws and regulations, enforced by agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), aim to prevent workplace discrimination and promote diversity. HR professionals must ensure that hiring, promotion, and other employment practices comply with EEO standards to foster an inclusive workplace and avoid legal penalties.

3. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulations

OSHA regulations are standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to ensure safe and healthy working conditions. These regulations cover a wide range of workplace hazards, including chemical exposure, machinery safety, and ergonomic practices.

Employers are required to comply with OSHA standards to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. HR professionals play a key role in ensuring compliance by implementing safety programs, conducting regular training, and maintaining accurate records. Adhering to OSHA regulations helps create a safer work environment and reduces the risk of legal issues.

4. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Covered reasons include personal or family illness, childbirth, adoption, and certain exigencies related to a family member’s military service.

Employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. HR professionals must ensure compliance with FMLA requirements, including proper documentation, communication, and maintaining employee benefits during leave. Understanding FMLA helps protect employees’ rights and ensures that organizations fulfill their legal obligations.

Current trends

Current trends highlight the latest developments and emerging practices in HR, such as inclusive leadership, employer branding, recruitment marketing, remote work policies, and the gig economy.

1. Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive leadership refers to leadership practices that ensure all team members feel valued, respected, and included. Inclusive leaders promote diversity by actively seeking out and leveraging diverse perspectives, fostering an environment of openness and respect.

They are aware of their biases and work to mitigate them, ensuring fair treatment for all employees.

This approach not only enhances team performance but also drives innovation and employee engagement. HR professionals should encourage and train leaders to adopt inclusive leadership practices to build a more equitable workplace.

2. Employer Branding

Employer branding is the process of promoting a company as an employer of choice to attract and retain top talent. It involves creating a positive image of the organization through marketing and communication strategies that highlight the company’s values, culture, and benefits.

Strong employer branding can differentiate a company from its competitors, making it more attractive to potential employees. HR professionals play a key role in developing and maintaining an effective employer brand by ensuring that employee experiences align with the brand’s promises.

3. Recruitment Marketing

Recruitment marketing applies marketing principles to the recruitment process to attract, engage, and nurture potential candidates. It involves creating targeted campaigns that highlight the company’s strengths, culture, and opportunities to attract top talent.

Techniques include social media marketing, content marketing, and employer branding efforts. Effective recruitment marketing helps build a strong talent pipeline, enhances the candidate experience, and improves the overall efficiency of the hiring process. HR professionals should leverage recruitment marketing to reach and engage with passive candidates.

4. Remote Work Policies

Remote work policies outline the guidelines and expectations for employees who work outside the traditional office environment.

These policies cover aspects such as eligibility, communication protocols, performance expectations, and cybersecurity measures.

Implementing clear remote work policies ensures that remote employees are productive, engaged, and aligned with company goals. HR professionals must develop and enforce these policies to support a flexible work environment while maintaining organizational efficiency and security.

5. Gig Economy

The gig economy refers to a labor market characterized by short-term contracts or freelance work rather than permanent jobs. It includes individuals who work as independent contractors, freelancers, or part-time workers in various industries.

The gig economy offers flexibility and autonomy for workers, while companies benefit from cost savings and access to a diverse talent pool. However, it also presents challenges such as lack of job security and benefits.

HR professionals need to understand the implications of the gig economy and develop strategies to manage and support gig workers effectively.

Core HR functions

Core HR Functions encompass the fundamental activities and responsibilities of HR, including performance management, onboarding, recruitment marketing, talent management, and employee relations.

1. Performance management cycle

The performance management cycle is a continuous process used to plan, monitor, and review an employee’s work objectives and overall contribution to the organization. It typically includes setting performance expectations, providing ongoing feedback, conducting performance appraisals, and creating development plans.

Effective performance management ensures alignment between individual goals and organizational objectives, enhances employee performance, and fosters professional growth. HR professionals play a critical role in facilitating this process, ensuring it is fair, transparent, and conducive to employee development and organizational success.

2. Onboarding software

Onboarding software assist you in integrating new employees into an organization and familiarizing them with company policies, culture, and their specific roles.

Effective onboarding helps new hires adjust quickly, enhances job satisfaction, and reduces turnover. By providing necessary resources and support, HR professionals can ensure that new employees become productive members of the team, contributing to their long-term success and the overall efficiency of the organization.

3. Talent management

Talent management encompasses the systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement, retention, and deployment of individuals who possess the skills and potential to meet current and future organizational needs.

It includes activities such as workforce planning, talent acquisition, performance management, learning and development, and succession planning. Effective talent management ensures that the organization has the right people in the right roles, promotes employee growth, and supports the achievement of strategic business goals.

HR professionals are essential in designing and implementing talent management strategies.

4. Employee relations

Employee relations involve managing the relationship between the employer and employees to ensure a harmonious and productive work environment.

This includes handling workplace conflicts, addressing employee grievances, ensuring compliance with labor laws, and promoting fair treatment.

Effective employee relations practices help prevent and resolve issues that can impact employee morale and productivity. HR professionals play a key role in fostering positive employee relations by implementing policies, conducting training, and providing support to both management and employees.

We know it’s a lot for one day. But don’t panic! By following our content, you’ll become more familiar with these terms and receive up-to-date insights from the HR industry.

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