HR Definitions

The HR Tech world is full of key phrases and descriptions. Here is a list of HR definitions to help you better understand the terminology.

Skill Development

Competency— Competencies are descriptions of the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that are required to perform a job. These often combine talents and hard skills – both which can be measured with an assessment. (Source: IBM).

Skill—A person’s range of skills or abilities. Something one knows and can learn; something observable.

Talent Profile for Employees A self-service profile of talent-related information maintained by employees, such as education, work experience, career aspirations and mobility preferences.

Assessment – An Assessment is an instrument used to provide accurate and predictive insight for managers during selection, fit for a job role and evaluating gaps. IBM defines different assessments as follows:

  • Capacity assessments—uncover innate talents using both behavioral and personality tests to assess personality traits and behaviors. These assessments are applicable in candidate and employee selection, career development, employee evaluation, and leadership selection and development.
  • Capability assessments—identify the acquired skills, education, background and experience of each individual. This series of assessments includes abilities, reasoning and skills tests specific to a particular job category and are suitable for candidates regardless of experience.
  • Culture fit assessments—reveal how well a candidate, employee or potential leader fits within your organization. These assessments can be used for multiple job families and roles across multiple industries, helping to decrease turnover and enhance commitment, engagement and job satisfaction
  • Ready-to-use Assessments – Pre-built, off the shelf assessments that have been validated for a specific job role across many organizations (Source: IBM)
  • Calibrated Assessments- Modifying a ready-to-use assessment to better reflect the customer’s environment. This typically involves changing the situational judgment questions, modifying the simulations, etc. but does not include changing the core traits the assessment was designed to measure. (Source: IBM)
  • Custom Assessments- Building an assessment for a customer based on researching the client’s top performers in a given job role. (Source: IBM)
  • Skills/Abilities Testing – Measuring hard skills that can be developed over time, such as typing skills, technical programming skills, basic computer skills, etc. (Source: IBM).
  • Behavioral/Personality assessment – Measuring the talents that people are born with, the things they naturally do well (or on the converse – won’t do well). These are characteristics that generally don’t change about a person. (Source: IBM)
  • Structured Interviews – Interview questions that are designed to measure a specifically attribute in a person. These questions are scientifically developed, objective, and relevant to the job the person is applying for, (Source: IBM).

Performance Management

Job Performance—The work-related activities expected of an employee, and how well those activities are executed.

Feedback—Responses from involved parties regarding what did/didn’t work. Organizations use this information to constantly improve their onboarding processes.

Goal Setting—The development of an action plan designed to motivate and guide a person, group, or organization toward a goal. Goals can be Corporate Goals, Team Goals, Individual Goals.

Employee Performance Review—A process, often combining both written and oral elements, whereby management evaluates and provides feedback on employee job performance, including steps to improve or redirect activities as needed.

Appraisal Process—The process of appraising an individual’s performance and goals.

Development Plan—Long-term development plan used to track and measure objectives for successors or high-potential.

Benchmark—A quantitative level of performance, which defines best-in-class results. A benchmark may be utilized to define a performance standard.

Pay for Performance – Pay increases are tied to specific ratings in a performance evaluation.

Appraisal – Performance evaluation form

Merit Pay – Extra pay awarded to an employee based on performance

Compensation Planning – The activity of making decisions around salary increases

Development Goals – Development statements that provide specific actions that a manager can assign to an employee to

help them increase their proficiency levels.

Smart Goals – Goals that are structured, measurable, action-oriented, results-focused, and time-bound (SMART)

with qualitative and quantitative content.


Succession planning—Process of identifying and developing successors for key positions and high potentials for Talent Groups and Successor Pools

Successor—Someone who is adjudged to be capable of taking a position in the future

Successor Pool—A collection of employees who have potential to fill one or more jobs or positions within a specific job family.

High Potentials—Employees who consistently and significantly outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances, while also reflecting their company’s culture and value. High potentials are capable of growing and succeeding throughout their career within an organization more quickly and effectively than their peers.

Talent Pipeline—A systematic, visible process of identifying candidates for succession, combined with the processes for their development.

Talent Mapping—Linking the talent on hand to the talent that will be needed to support growth, in order to assess shortfalls or gaps. Can also be used for managing performance.

Readiness—How ready a successor is to assume a position.

Talent Gap—Also known as a skills gap. A talent gap occurs when an organization has more jobs than qualified people to fill them.

Career Path

Job Fit—The degree of congruence between an individual’s strengths, needs, and wants in a particular job and work environment. When interests align, the employee and the organization experience good job fit.

Career Pathing– a process of career development that enables employees to map multiple job moves from a current role to an aspirational destination job role.

Career Path – A specific path identified by an employee that demonstrates one job move to the next with identified skill gaps and recommend learning.

Job Family – A group of related jobs belonging to a specific (department-oriented) job family.

360 Degree Feedback

360-Degree Feedback—An appraisal technique designed to produce a rounded picture of an individual, based on feedback from multiple stakeholders at many levels internal and external to the company.