Thursday, May 19, 2022


I am so over the word talent. Everyone is throwing it around like confetti at a wedding.
It sort of irks me because whenever I delve deeper with people they rarely know what it really means. When someone referred to strategic talent the other day, I nearly hit the roof. We are supposed to develop strategic relationships, have strategic goals and objectives and approach marketing, finance and sales from a strategic perspective. And what does it really mean?

Simply put, ‘well planned’, as if anything less would be acceptable from top management! So strategic talent means what? How does that differ from just talent? Are we talking badly-planned talent here? I just don’t get it!

But, of course, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Every industry has a wealth of technical terms and jargon that, when you look closely, turn out to have vague or even contrary meanings. These buzzwords or fashion words are intended to impress one’s audience with the pretense of knowledge, so for this reason they are usually universal, non-specific and all-encompassing. They mean everything and nothing which makes them difficult to dispute, so much so, that “fuzzword” might better describe them!

Here are some that in business you must come across frequently. Quality ÔÇô that elusive Holy Grail of product and service, a word so revered that it’s incorporated into almost every company mission/vision statement somewhere, whether it accurately sums up their product and service or not. Solution – a useful word which has been raped repeatedly and is now as ubiquitous and meaningless as quality. Many businesses use it to describe their products; thus, fixing the hole in the roof and throwing in a new piece of guttering at the same time becomes a “roofing solution”.

What’s wrong with “repair”? And when managers are looking for a “way forward’ (meaning they’ve no idea where to start), they can claim to be actively seeking a satisfactory solution, no matter if they haven’t a snowball in hell’s chance of ever finding it. Action list – like a to-do list, but more gung-ho and impressive… Shades of the A-team rather than the B-Brigade they probably are.

Visioning – what used to be called forecasting and a good example of how little regard for the rules of syntax the proponents of buzzwords have, as in Negatively impact – still the example par excellence of managerial newspeak nonsense and bad grammar, incorporating both a split infinitive and a noun used as a verb in only 2 words. If “negatively impact” means harm or damage, why not use one of these fine, transparent words in the first place? Well, if consultancy types did it, might become clear that they were stating the obvious and that would negatively impact their ability to charge thousands of pula per day.

My own profession is not immune. The recruitment game has its fair share of language idiosyncrasies. Let’s take an example of typical JOB SEARCH jargon…

Competitive Salary (meaning – we remain competitive by paying less than our competitors). Having gone through a process of re-engineering (the company is in turmoil). Challenging environment (problems abound and the workforce is depressed and de-motivated). You must be an ambitious self starter (you’re definitely on your own and you’ll be the one to carry the can when it all goes pear-shaped), with forward-looking ideas (you will need a crystal ball), but with ability to focus (look for short term solutions and profits) and, my all time favorite and I’ve used this myself, A rare opportunity (nobody is much interested in this job).

But the masters of jargon and spin must surely be real estate agents who fluently speak an esoteric code that they all understand perfectly but which they take great pains never to let the buying public decipher. This is well explained in the best-selling book Freakonomics. The phrase “well maintained” is as full of meaning to an estate agent as deathcon1 is to a nuclear scientist; to them it means that a house is old but not quite falling down, to a buyer it implies that it’s in great condition, and to the 75 year old owner of the house it’s a compliment, which is just what the canny agent intended.

If a house is described as stunning or fantastic that probably refers more to the price! Or what about “a charming house in a great neighbourhood”? You sort of get the feeling the house doesn’t have any attributes worth describing but it’s surrounded by lots of places that do.

Then of course there is ÔÇô a great buy meaning it’s cheaper than anything else in the market (but there must be a reason), easily-maintained garden (refers to the window box), compact living space (couldn’t swing a cat in it), and needs some tender loving care which loosely translated means roll up your sleeves cos over the next few years you are going to be up to your eyeballs in DIY and debt.
And let’s not forget acronyms.

These are everywhere in the world of non- governmental organisations (NGOs), so much so that we’ve almost forgotten how to form full sentences… “We have just had our general AGM (Annual General Meeting), in attendance was UNICEF, WHO and UNDP where we mapped out our AWP (Annual Work Plan), which also combined an AR (Annual Review) and also R&D (Research and Development) initiatives implemented by our local CBOs (Community-Based Organisations), who are currently awaiting completion of their MOUs for the HIV/AIDS partnership network.

It’s enough to drive you over the edge, but not just any edge ÔÇô a negatively-impactful edge, generating a situation which calls for a strategic solution and some serious visioning to find a way forward if I am to maintain the quality of the product. TTFN (ta ta for now) and hopefully next week it will be BAU (business as usual).

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at


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