Is your business alienating employees by using too many buzzwords?

We’ve all experienced the cycle of a new term or idea going from groundbreaking to cliché over time, largely due to it being used to death in corporate circles. But is your company guilty of doing that? And, if so, are your employees taking notice and maybe taking you less seriously, too? 

In this article, we take a look at a recent survey that delivers some interesting insight on the overuse of buzzwords in corporate settings.  

What exactly are buzzwords? 

Everyone knows them. Every industry, group, or sphere of influence has them. Buzzwords are terms or phrases, typically jargon, which are fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context. You’re going to hear them used over and over as a way for organizations to position themselves within the current climate. 

But do employees believe them? 

A recent Preply survey found that 20% of employees across all levels of business, with varying levels of education, disliked the use of corporate buzzwords. Despite this, 40% say they hear them daily, and 70% admit to using them themselves.   

Some of the most common buzzwords Preply’s survey identified American employees as hearing were: 

  • Win-win (63%) 
  • Culture/company culture (61%) 
  • ASAP (58%) 
  • Think outside the box (57%) 
  • Moving forward (56%) 

What does this mean? Well, when crafting copy for your staff or contacts to read, it’s important to remember that some of these terms are going to come across as overused or insincere to a significant percentage of the workforce. 

Likewise, the Preply study identified which words annoyed employees the most. These should also be taken into consideration when drafting official communications. They were: 

  • New normal, when in relation to the pandemic (43%) 
  • Culture/company culture (43%) 
  • Circle back (43%) 
  • Boots on the ground (42%) 
  • Give 110% (41%) 

What to avoid when recruiting new talent. 

Preply found that 70% of employees have been influenced on whether to apply to a company based on the use of buzzwords in the position description. The following terms were considered by many to be ‘red flags’: 

  • Rockstar (53%) 
  • Wear many hats (50%) 
  • Thick skin (48%) 
  • Work hard, play hard (47%) 
  • Schedule TBD (44%) 

Do people latch onto buzzwords?  

Preply’s survey also found that at least 75% of employees think using buzzwords makes them sound more professional. That might not always be a good thing. For SEO and marketing purposes, identifying keywords is important. But in other situations, relying on them to sound professional or ‘in the know’ might be responsible for miscommunication and a general lack of comprehension.  

When observing your employees’ communication patterns, be aware of what is legitimate, and what might be for show. Buzzwords only mean so much if you can’t back them up.  

In conclusion… 

Buzzwords are helpful, to an extent. When they leave your communication efforts feeling cliché or insincere, or allow your staff to cover for knowledge gaps, they’re doing more harm than good.