Glossary - Frequently Asked HR Terms


Applicant pool: Those persons who have applied for a particular position or who have applications on file from which an employee may be selected.


Career path: A career path identifies optimum alternative paths of employee progression to positions requiring successively higher levels of skill and the consequent promotional opportunities.


Diversity: The inclusion, integration, awareness, and appreciation of various cultures within a workforce and the opportunity for the maximum utilization of individual members’ talents, skills, and perspectives, with a view towards increasing the organization’s productivity.


Employee: A person whose work activities are under the control of an individual or entity.

Employee Engagement: Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organization to give of their best each day, committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.

Employee Onboarding: Bringing new hires into an organization. Sometimes used synonymously with new hire orientation, employee onboarding includes filling out forms and on-the-job training but also socialization and culture training so new hires can be effective, contributing team members. Effective onboarding can extend weeks or months beyond a new hire’s first day.

Employee referral:  is a candidate recommended by an existing employee

Employee Turnover: In human resources context, turnover is the act of replacing an employee with a new employee. Partings between organizations and employees may consist of termination, retirement, death, interagency transfers, and resignations. An organization’s turnover is measured as a percentage rate, which is referred to as its turnover rate. Turnover rate is the percentage of employees in a workforce that leave during a certain period of time. Organizations and industries as a whole measure their turnover rate during a fiscal or calendar year.

Employment at will: The traditional common law doctrine that, absent prior agreement to the contrary, an employer may discharge an employee any time for any reason not barred by the law. An employer’s exercise of this power may be restricted by collective bargaining or other agreement, or by specific statutes, including those prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or other factors. In some states, courts have imposed additional limits on employment at will by allowing claims for “wrongful discharge” in certain circumstances.

Equal employment opportunity: The right of all persons to work and to advance on the basis of merit and ability without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran’s status or other factors which cannot lawfully be the basis for employment actions.

Equal opportunity: An organizations’ effort to ensure that all personnel and service programs, policies, and practices will be formulated and conducted in a manner that ensures equal access for all people and prevents discrimination. As part of this effort, organizations ensure that employment and service provision policies are based solely on the individual eligibility, merit, or fitness of applicants, employees, and recipients of services for jobs and services without regard to race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, sex, marital status, affectional or sexual preferences or political or union affiliation


Family leave: Family leave is granted to an employee to care for a family member and includes paid maternity and paternity leave. The leave may be available to care for a newborn child, an adopted child, a sick child, or a sick adult relative. Paid family leave is given in addition to any sick leave, vacation, personal leave, or short-term disability leave that is available to the employee.

Flexible work schedule: Permits employees to set their own schedules within a general set of parameters. Employees generally are required to work a minimum number of core hours each day

Full-time position: Any employment position which requires 40 or more hours of work per week.

Funeral leave: Time off from work due to a death in the family. The period of absence is usually limited to a few days (for example, 3 paid days for immediate family and 1 paid day for other relatives).


Goal: A numerical objective, realistically fixed output


Holidays: Holidays are days off from work on days of special religious, cultural, social, or patriotic significance on which work and business ordinarily cease. Employees may receive either full or partial pay for holidays.

Human resource management (HRM or HR) is the strategic approach to the effective management of people in an organization, so that they help the business to gain a competitive advantage. It is designed to maximize employee performance in the service of an employer’s strategic objectives. HR is primarily concerned with the management of people within organizations, focusing on policies and on systems. HR departments are responsible for overseeing employee-benefits design, employee recruitment, training and development, performance appraisal, and Reward management (e.g., managing pay and benefit systems). HR also concerns itself with organizational change and industrial relations, that is, the balancing of organizational practices with requirements arising from collective bargaining and from governmental laws.


Job description: A written statement detailing the duties of a particular job title.

Job group: Job or group of jobs having similar content, wage rates, and opportunities.


Performance management (PM): Performance Management is a set of activities that ensure goals are met in an effective and efficient manner. 

Performance review/performance evaluation –  Performance Review is a method by which the job performance of an employee is documented and evaluated. 

Personal leave: Personal leave is a general purpose leave benefit, used for reasons important to the individual employee, but not otherwise provided for by other forms of leave. Some employers place restrictions on the purposes for which personal leave may be used.

Position: A group of duties and responsibilities, assigned or delegated by an appointing authority, requiring the services of an employee on a full-time basis or, in some cases, on a less than full-time basis.

Position description: A narrative explanation of the duties and responsibilities of a position, and the education, experience, knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to perform the duties and responsibilities of the position in a satisfactory manner.


Recruitment: refers to the overall process of attracting, shortlisting, selecting and appointing suitable candidates for jobs (either permanent or temporary) within an organization.

Recruitment (or relevant) area: The geographic location(s) from which an agency or organization unit draws applicants for employment.

Referral: A written order from a primary care provider directing a patient to see a specialist or receive certain health care services. Under many health plans, a plan participant must obtain a referral before he or she can receive health care services from anyone except his or her primary care provider.

Regular position: Any position other than a temporary position.

Regular work: The job the worker held at the time of injury or a substantially similar job.

Role-based access: Appropriate access for each person or class of person to the category or categories of protected health information to which access is needed.


Screening: A type of preventive service that includes tests or exams to detect the presence of a health issue, usually performed when an individual has no symptoms, signs, or prevailing medical history of a disease or condition.

Selection procedures: Refers to the process for choosing the successful applicant for employment or advancement, or for admission to a program.

Selection rate: The proportion of applicants or candidates who are hired, promoted, or otherwise selected for a particular position.

Sexual harassment: Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which creates a hostile, humiliating, or offensive work environment which materially interferes with the employee’s ability to perform the job; submission to, or rejection of, sexual advances or requests for sexual favors which form the basis of an employment decision.

Sick leave: Sick leave provides all or part of an employee’s earnings if he or she is unable to work because of a non-work-related illness or injury. Employees commonly receive their regular pay for a specified number of days off per year. Sick leave is provided on a per-year basis, usually expressed in days, and is never insured.

Skill: A present, observable competence to perform a learned act.

Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace old leaders when they leave, retire or die. Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available. Taken narrowly, “replacement planning” for key roles is the heart of succession planning.

Supervisor: An employee who (a) performs some work that is different from that of the employee’s subordinates; and (b) has the responsibility to authorize or recommend in the interest of the employer a majority of the following actions: 1) Hire, transfer, suspend, promote, demote, dismiss, and discipline other employees; 2) address employee grievances; and 3) assign, direct, and conduct performance reviews of the work. The exercise of this authority and responsibility shall not be of a merely routine or clerical nature but shall require the use of independent judgment.


Targeted recruiting: Any recruitment activity directed toward any person or group of persons based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, or age that is not also equally and coincidentally directed toward all other persons.


Utilization analysis: An analysis conducted by an employer to determine whether minorities, women, and persons with disabilities are employed in each major job category at a rate comparable to the availability of qualified minorities, women, or persons with disabilities in the relevant labor market for the positions covered by each job category.

Underutilization: Having fewer protected class members in a particular job classification than would be expected by their availability in the workforce or recruitment area.

Unemployed: Under the criteria established by the Bureau of the Census of the U. S. Department of Commerce, civilians 16 years old or over are considered unemployed if they were: (a) neither “at work” nor ” with a job” during the reference week; (b) looking for work during the last 4 weeks; and (c) available to accept a job. Also included as unemployed are persons who did not work at all during the reference week and were waiting to be called back to a job from which they had been laid off.

Upward mobility: A system for training, educating, or otherwise preparing employees for more responsible, higher- paying positions of employment.


Vacation: Vacations are leave from work (or pay in lieu of time off) provided on an annual basis and normally taken in blocks of days or weeks. Paid vacations commonly are granted to employees only after they meet specified service requirements. The amount of vacation leave received each year usually varies with length of service. Vacation time off normally is paid at full pay or partial pay, or it may be a percentage of employee earnings.


Workforce analysis: A detailed listing, by department or other organizational unit, of job classifications as they may appear in collective bargaining agreement or payroll records.

Workforce: Employees, volunteers, trainees, and other persons under the direct control of a covered entity, whether or not they are paid by the covered entity.

Workforce analysis: An analysis that reveals the composition of employees in a workforce by protected group status and occupational category.