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February 8, 2024

A Look Back at the Top 10 HR Buzzwords of 2023

A bee with a hidden buzz word

Every year, the HR dictionary adds a few new buzzwords to its pages. And as social media platforms like TikTok continue to impact the way we perceive the modern workplace, HR influencers are taking conversations out of the boardroom and into the comments section.

Whether you’re looking to “quiet hire” or engaging in a well deserved “bare minimum Monday”, it’s time for a tour of the HR buzzwords that defined 2023.

HR buzzwords that ruled in 2023

  1. #WorkTok
  2. Quiet hiring
  3. Lazy girl jobs
  4. Personality hire
  5. Boomerang employees
  6. Unretiring
  7. Bare minimum Mondays
  8. Ghost jobs
  9. Career cushioning
  10. Conscious quitting

1. #WorkTok

Most buzzwords on this list have one thing in common: they spread like wildfire thanks to TikTok.

From relatable sketches about poor management to practical advice from career coaches, #WorkTok has given everyday employees a massive platform. And with over 2.4 billion views to date, many experts believe this hashtag heralds a new era of workplace community.

“It’s the relatability of it all and the fact there are so many small universal insights that we might not talk about, but then suddenly people post about it on TikTok and you’re like ‘oh, I feel the same way,’” social media marketer Malene Hold told WorkLife.

As an employer, #WorkTok gives you the chance to tap into the employee experience. 

As young adults continue to get their news from TikTok, you can expect creators to keep coining buzzwords for years to come. Meet their expectations with empathy by keeping your finger on the pulse.

2. Quiet hiring

Between quiet quitting and quiet firing, you might be wondering – what’s with all the whispering?

Coined by Emily Rose McRae of Gartner fame last January, “quiet hiring” is a way for businesses to gain new skills without hiring additional full-time staff. This can look like asking an existing team member to temporarily work on a stretch project or shifting a multi-talented employee into a new role.

But based on the 81% of executives whose employees already work across functional boundaries, quiet hiring is a new term for an old phenomenon.

On one hand, these shifts can create valuable opportunities for employees to bloom in new soil. On the other, you run the risk of increasing responsibilities without adjusting compensation to match.

“It sounds like you’re just doing this because you don’t have the budget to hire new full-time employees so you’re just trying to squeeze as much as you can out of your current ones,” jokes Sarai Marie, a prominent #WorkToker famous for her hiring skits.

Instead of spreading your existing employees too thin, try tapping into the fractional workforce through external quiet hiring. Put feelers out for short-term contractors or freelancers so you can get work done fast without increasing your headcount or overworking your top performers.

Just be sure to prioritize transparency and compensation when tapping contract-based talent for new projects. When resetting requirements, write up a new contract with an adjusted scope of work and compensation to keep the business environment crystal clear.

3. Lazy girl jobs

With under a third of employees feeling excited by their work, it’s no wonder lazy girl jobs are dominating #WorkTok.

Coined by corporate influencer Gabrielle Judge, the term “lazy girl job” describes a role with healthy wages, nice benefits and a typical 9 to 5 schedule – with no unpaid overtime.

“The whole lazy girl job trend is essentially just understanding what you’re actually being told to do and being able to hold good work-life balance boundaries in the workplace,” explains Gabrielle.

Despite the name, influencers argue that lazy girl jobs are anything but.

“No one in a ‘lazy girl job’ is actually lazy,” explains one #WorkToker with a flexible remote gig. “At the end of the day, people in remote, well-paying jobs that take care of them are producing good results. Otherwise, they’re not going to stay in those jobs.”

Although many employers initially interpreted the term as an excuse to slack off, other human resources leaders are asking: 

As long as workers live up to the job description over the long term, does it really matter if they don’t “lean in” to the rise-and-grind mentality?

If you’re ready to create a balanced environment that works for everyone, try adopting a remote work model and encouraging workers to actually use their vacation days. Even small steps can help you create an environment where employees can flourish – and rest when needed.

4. Personality hire

Soft skills like empathy, creativity, and team spirit are the foundation of strong teamwork.

And while hiring for “culture fit” isn’t a new phenomenon, this year’s “personality hires” take it a step further. 

A personality hire’s main draw is their winning personality and positive vibes. They make the office a better place to be by cracking jokes, boosting morale, and planning office parties.

“People like folks with high energy who are likable, sociable and bring school spirit to the workplace. Personality hires take pride in this. It’s not about getting the job done, it’s about injecting energy and positivity,” executive consultant Kate Walker told WorkLife.

As the social glue that holds the office together, personality hires contribute heavily to a positive workplace culture. And by leaning on their emotional intelligence, personality hires can pull their weight by empathizing with coworkers, building strong working relationships, and facilitating an open and communicative work environment.

However, hiring for personality can be a slippery slope. It can also lead hiring managers to fall back on unconscious biases. 

“Personality has its place in a hiring process, but the whole thing is a process, and there should be a scorecard. How we weigh personality should be one of the factors, but we have to be careful. If you want to spend time with this person, are you finding someone like you, and all of a sudden does the workforce look and say all of the same things?” says Barbara Palmer, founder of Broad Perspective Consulting.

Curb affinity bias with a blind hiring process that helps you identify the best person for the job, not just the one you like most.

5. Boomerang employees

Turns out, the grass isn’t always greener…especially when it comes to switching jobs.

According to a new study, 80% of people who quit their jobs during 2021’s Great Resignation later regretted it. In fact, almost 20% of post-pandemic resigners have since returned to their old jobs.

Also known as boomerang employees, these alumni rehires make onboarding a breeze.

“Hiring former employees means familiarity with your business – the mission, culture, values, players, training and organizational structure are already in place. This familiarity lends itself to an expedited time to productivity, greatly benefiting the organization,” Amber Hyatt, director of consumer experience at Johnson & Johnson Vision told Business News Daily.

But not every boomerang returns to the same role, especially when they come back with new knowledge and skills. Boomerangers are more likely to become managers as companies try to win back past top performers with higher salaries and added responsibility.

But if you don’t want top performers to leave in the first place, boost retention by taking a long hard look at your compensation package. Pay and bonuses are the top reason for staying and moving to a new job – but many job-hoppers don’t receive the raises and pay bumps they were expecting. 

This also gives you the chance to have an honest conversation about the costs of switching jobs. From lost social capital and relocation expenses to year-end bonuses left on the table, make sure departing employees know what they’re giving up.

6. Unretiring

Retirement surged during the pandemic. But as a result of the cost of living crisis, many older workers are choosing to “unretire”.

Unretiring is when people re-enter the workforce after retirement. And according to one study, nearly 20% of retirees are now working full-time or part-time, with an additional 7% of respondents actively looking for employment. 

But while nearly half (48%) of unretirees re-entered the workforce for financial reasons, another 45% opted to work again for the social and emotional benefits. 

“Work provides routine, structure, connection, mental stimulus, purpose, and relevance. These are all things that many people don't realize they are losing when they leave work and that aren't easily replaced with golf, grandkids, and crossword puzzles,” retirement coach Robert Laura told Yahoo Finance.

Whether they take a part-time job, start a business, or launch an encore career, many older workers are taking advantage of the tight job market to shore up their finances and stay active.

“A lot of us want to work part-time in retirement,” says one unretiree. “We want to stay active, have social connections, bring in some income and to stay mentally engaged, but we also want to have time to do other things…[without] the parts of our former job that we didn't like so much.”

Whether you prioritize flexible work or offer seasonal employment opportunities, embracing age diversity is all about creating a schedule with room to breathe.

7. Bare minimum Mondays

We’ve all experienced the looming dread of the “Sunday Scaries”. That end-of-the-weekend anxiety when work deadlines feel tighter and to-do lists look longer.

But in the age of hybrid work, what if we gave ourselves grace instead?

That’s the ethos behind “Bare minimum Mondays,” a term coined by self-employed creative and productivity TikToker Marisa Jo Mayes.

“Your Monday to-do list used to demand every ounce of bandwidth you had for the day. Then you’d be too exhausted to even consider doing the chores you didn’t get to on the weekend. Cue: being mean to yourself. But now, bare minimum Monday lets you off the hook for whatever ridiculous productivity standards exist in your head,” explains Marisa.

By treating the first day of the week as a gradual re-entry into work, you can prioritize your mental health and prevent burnout. As a result of these relaxed boundaries, employees may even find themselves getting more work done than usual.

With over 4.4 million TikTok views to date, it’s clear this buzzword is striking a chord.

While some outlets have flagged the trend as another facet of the quiet quitting movement, others believe it has more in common with pushes for a four-day workweek. Whatever way you slice it, the trend speaks to a deeper exhaustion at the heart of our work culture and the endless quest for well-being.

“It clearly is an indication that people are burned out and trying to find ways to re-energize themselves while doing the thing that they have to do to earn a paycheck," HR pro Tessa White told Good Morning America.

If you want to incorporate this work-week warmup into your culture, encourage employees to block out two hours on Monday mornings to organize notes, papers, and files. Help your team identify the essential tasks for the week so they know which deliverables to focus on first based on the goals that actually matter.

8. Ghost jobs

Have you ever kept a job posting up for longer than necessary? If so, it might be time for a recruitment exorcism.

Ghost jobs haunted the HR news cycle in 2023, leaving job-seekers wondering why they still couldn’t find a job despite steady growth.

These non-existent roles are posted with the intention of hiring…eventually. By continually capturing new talent with no promise of employment, ghost jobs give the impression of continual growth.

While they may help employers build a pipeline of applicants they can draw from when a real role opens up…ghost jobs just aren’t fair to job seekers.

“It’s really disheartening,” postgrad Brooke Wilemon told The Wall Street Journal after she spent hours applying for a ghost job.

While some ghost jobs might just be poorly monitored evergreen postings, it’s time for employers to do better.

Audit your careers page to make sure postings are up-to-date. You can also broaden your talent pool by creating a general applicant pool instead of a ghost job. These pools collect resumes from job seekers without the promise of a role, allowing you to draw on applicants to fill open positions in the future.

9. Career cushioning

From tech to retail, layoffs soared 98% in 2023. As employers entered cost-cutting mode, many workers got busy creating their own plan B in a move called “career cushioning". 

Career cushioning is when employees shine up their resumes, earn new certifications, browse job listings, and maybe even submit a few applications in an attempt to soften the blow of potential job loss.

By recession-proofing their livelihoods, workers are adding an extra layer of professional security to make sure they’re not blind-sided by a layoff.

“You’re keeping your options open in the event that you need a new job,” explains career expert Catherine Fisher in a LinkedIn post. “Think of it as hedging your bets.”

With two in five employees actively career cushioning, companies need to provide stability and reassurance where they can. Encourage loyalty by openly addressing the fear of layoffs and chatting about the types of stability you can offer. Actively promote opportunities for internal growth so employees know there’s room to bloom.

10. Conscious quitting

Company culture has always been important. But as the newest generation of workers takes the reins, employers will need to work harder to make sure their ethics are up to snuff.

“Conscious quitting” is when employees quit their jobs because the company’s social or environmental ethics don’t align with their own values. 

And it’s especially common among Gen Z.

According to a recent survey by KPMG, 33% of 18- to 24-year-olds have turned down a job based on a company’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments. From robust DEI initiatives to sustainability, Gen Zers want to work for companies that put their money where their mouth is and contribute to causes that matter.

So how can employers prevent new hires from jumping ship? According to Chris Preston, founder of culture consultancy The Culture Builders, it’s all about re-calibrating your company’s moral compass so it points to what really matters.

“Organizations have to be both more honest about why they exist or how they work and take a long hard look at the work environment they are dropping our latest generation of talent into,” Chris explains.

Uplevel your lingo for a whole new year of hiring

From unretiring to career cushioning, the ever-changing world of work requires a consistent willingness to rethink the way HR works. Because sometimes the biggest talent challenges can be solved by simply learning to speak the same language.

Stay on top of all things hiring. Check out Breezy’s Hire Learning blog for fresh insights on the A to Z of modern recruitment. Or sign up for your free 14-day trial to try the user-friendly applicant tracking system loved by thousands of hiring managers.