Key reasons why you should examine your team’s internal terminology about your industry, products and roles.
In many ways, the way you and your team talk about what you do, and why and how you do it, can be extremely important in an industry as new as the on-demand talent economy.
Open Assembly sat down with linguist Jeffrey Punske, PhD, director of undergraduate studies in Linguistics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, to learn how language—i.e., the terminology and voice you and your team use both internally and externally—can drastically influence how teams view themselves, and how the world views your company. Here are the main points we learned.
1. Dream of a Common Language
It’s important to establish a common language with your team: “There is a need among the global workforce to have a common language,” says Punske. We’re not talking about language in terms of global dialects such as English, Spanish and French. The open talent tongue is already established: it’s English. Rather, Punske means there must be an agreed-upon set of words such as what your organization calls your industry, products and career roles.
Your takeaway: Solidify the murky terms your business uses in everyday operations. Deeply examine whether these terms serve you, and make sure everyone on your team—and your core clientele—understand what they mean, too.
2. Be Flexible
Don’t be married to terms you may have already established (good news: being flexible is usually easy for people in the innovation space): Punske says language is hard to control, and certain terms that you and your team think are solid may morph over time.
“Language is not something you can control,” says Punske. “It’s something you can try to, maybe at best, direct slightly. But it’s not something that you can mandate people use in a way that you want it to.” For example, if negative news hits the airwaves regarding the gig-economy, that term may also adopt a negative connotation, too, as it may have during the passing of California’s recent AB5 bill. This could lead to a negative view regarding your company and industry.
“If you come up with a term that you think is the perfect term to describe the type of work, the type of model that you are working on, and then you find that is being used in another way, that’s just the way it’s going to be,” he says.
Your takeaway? Be flexible, and be ready to move away from terms that don’t serve your business and your industry anymore, or ones that have morphed into meaning something else.