Overview: Terminology Management is the process of identifying the standardized terms that a business will use to communicate within the company, with stakeholders, and with employees. Traditionally speaking, terminology management has been used to document processes, explain services or products, and build brand recognition (think of Nike’s “Just Do It” motto).
What if terminology management could go a step further to provide additional benefits for employees within the company? Fortunately, terminology management can empower companies to regain their voice. It also fosters conversations that can help their employees process various concerns.
Why Using Terminology Management and Cultivate Terminology for Employee Conversations
With media and technology being so heavily incorporated into one’s daily life, distressing or even uplifting news can be difficult for an employee to completely abandon during work hours. Businesses can show their support or acknowledgment of their employees’ perspectives by helping to develop terminology for these uncomfortable conversations.
Furthermore, established terminology helps companies decide on how to approach controversial news and how the company may or may not respond. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, posed unforeseen hardships for a great number of employees world-wide such as financial challenges, health risks, and childcare concerns. Most global businesses were forced to develop policies and adopt or create terminology.
Whether the mass concern is a pandemic or another significant life event, terminology management provides companies’ the ability to release consistent and professional updates internally to employees and externally to potential employees, stakeholders, and even customers.
How to Develop Terminology Management for Employee Discussions
A company cannot address every controversial event reported in the media. However, it must focus on addressing the events that are related to or threaten a company’s core values. Guiding steps for developing internal terminology management for employees appears below:
- Determine which concerns or new updates the company wishes to address.
- I.e. race or sex discrimination, inclusivity, disabilities, etc.
NOTE: This step is an ongoing process as companies and concerns continue to evolve.
- Decide which department will be responsible for creating, updating, storing, and communicating company terminology.
- I.e. Knowledge Management, Human Resources, Marketing, etc.
- Create the necessary resources.
NOTE: Companies will have to decide on using one comprehensive resource that lists all communication preferences or several individualized sources that address different concerns.
- Share resources with employees.
NOTE: Resources that are intended to promote or guide conversations must be shared with employees to be effective. Consider regularly promoting these resources or including them within employee training.
Step three, or creating the necessary resources, can be a difficult stage if the company is unsure of the best format for recording this type of information.One beneficial method may be creating a terminology style guide in Excel. An Excel spreadsheet can act as a quick reference material since it organizes information by tabs and charts.
This format allows the company to present commonly used verbiage next to the company’s preferred verbiage. For instance, employees may commonly write or say “disabled people”, but if the company wishes to promote person/people-first language, the terminology guide would provide the term “person with a disability” as the preferred terminology for internal and external communication (see the example below). Despite how these terms are recorded, companies must continue to update terminology resources.
Research is imperative when developing or adopting new terminology, especially when referring to specific communities or events. If the company is attempting to incorporate more representative language for a community, then contact members of the specific community to discover which terms they prefer. When community members are unavailable, gather commonly used terms from credible sources. You can also decide which are most appropriate to include within company resources.
If the company is not addressing a specific community, research the most accurate and professional terms used to discuss the subject(s). For example, what could be used instead of the informal term “handicapped parking”? The company would provide “accessible parking” as the formal and acceptable alternative.
Using standardized terminology not only helps companies navigate conversations on important matters, but demonstrates the company’s value for their employees. Developing or adopting language that supports respectful discussions on impactful events further promotes a safe and inclusive work environment. In today’s modern world, employees prioritize and seek companies that value their individual well-being and voice. Terminology management is one communication tool businesses should implement to further support their employees.
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