Language matters – truly it does

It matters what you call your employees

It’s an issue that many organisations have struggled with over time; how to refer to employees. There has been a trend for some time to use words such as team member, colleague or associate. But to my way of thinking, these words imply a level of equality or a lack of hierarchy that is simply not present in most organisations. There’s almost a false sense of joviality, of “we are all in this together”, which is true of some organisations, but certainly not of all.

Language matters

We know that language matters.  And we know that one of the ways that organisations build trust is by having consistency between the stated or overt language and that which is implied or the “every day reality”.

So what you call your employees matters. It sets the tone. It makes a statement that you then want the organisational culture to match up with. Sadly, too few organisations simply look to the buzz word of the moment rather than what that word actually means and whether that’s what they want it to mean organisationally.


So it was a pleasant surprise to come across a new description this week whilst holidaying in Asia. The hotel we stayed in referred to its employees (all its employees) as talent. I love this description- it implies there is something special about each person, that they bring something unique to the job, that there’s something to be appreciated and respected.  Who knows of course, how much of this is the reality for the employees working each day – but it certainly sets a tone that to the outside eye seems genuine and seems like a culture that is something to want to be part of.

Language matters. Far too often we are lazy with our words. Either copying others’ or not considering the meaning more closely, with more consideration.

And the good news is that if you are taking the time to properly consider things like language, then you are more likely to be taking the time to consider other matters that matter too.

Until next time.

language, culture, TALENT

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