Staffing Terminology Explained

The world of staffing – or as its more commonly known today, Human Resources (HR) – is no different from that of any other business process. Like supply, marketing, sales and facilities management, the sector has taken a basic concept and developed it into a fully fledged area of study and practice.

At one point, “staffing” simply referred to the process of hiring new staff and laying off existing staff. However as the modern business models and management methods developed during the economic and technological booms of the 1960’s, the issue became much more complicated. New technology, new divisions of labour, new business models in the form of multinational corporations, and most importantly new labour laws protecting the rights of workers in this brave new world made staffing far more complex than it had once been.

This has led to staffing becoming simply one part of the umbrella term of Human Resources, though obviously a particularly vital one. Still, though it has been absorbed into a wider field, staffing retains its own particular vocabulary – a terminology built to describe very specific situations and processes involved.

For those unfamiliar with this niche lexis, here’s a quick guide to some of the more specific terms:

  • Onboarding: This business management term describes the process of making new employees a productive member of the workforce. This has a large cross over with “orientation”, where employees are shown around the workplace and given a brief description of their duties. However many within HR would argue that onboarding describes a more systematic process, where staff are given a certain period of time to acquire new knowledge, accommodate new methods and assimilate new goals before taking on their full responsibilities.
  • Turnover: In staffing, “turnover” is used in reference to labour – to the rate at which an employer gains and loses employees. At the simplest level, this could be described as “how long an employee stays at the company on average”. This is a vital measure of staffing performance and a key factor for long-term strategies in recruitment and associated costs. You can work out the turnover rate through a simple, three step calculation: 1) Calculate the average number of employees, 2) calculate the number of departures among staff within the given period (generally a year), and finally 3) divide departures by the number of employees.
  • Sourcing: This refers to the process of generating applicants for a vacant job – of “sourcing” interest among those with the right qualifications, experience and interest and in making the application process available to them. It includes advertising the job across media as well as more proactive measures such as headhunting or active solicitation through job search engines or events such as talent fairs at universities.
  • Screening: At the most basic level, pre-employment screening generally consists of verifying whether or not an applicant has been honest in the claims made on their CV through the simple measure of contacting their references. In more complex cases it can involve a credit check (particularly in demand for those in the financial sector) or a Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) check – which can actually be required by law in some sensitive positions such as medical or legal professions. In any case though, it amounts to double-checking that the person you’re looking to employ is who they said they were during the application process.