Ad Industry, Behind The Scenes, Business Feb 22, 2014

“Onboarding” and Other Awful Buzzwords


To get up to speed; a bastardization of the phrase “to get someone on board” and making it into a verb.

As in…
“Make sure the new guy onboards with the tracking software. We’ll need him up to speed by next week.”

The other day I was on a conference call, being trained in a piece of online lead tracking software, and the presenter said, “The next step in the onboarding process is…”

I just about choked on my microphone.   Really?  Onboarding?

Buzzwords are, in my opinion, mostly lazy attempts at sounding clever.  They’re jargon.  Designed to make the speaker seem smart, and the spoken-to seem out of touch.

Perhaps worst of all, they get in the way of perfectly decent words that carry much more useful meaning.

“Onboarding process” sounds ridiculous, and has no shared meaning outside of tech companies trying to sound trendy.  Swap out “onboarding” for “training” and you’ve got a sentence that means something.  And doesn’t sound silly.

So long as I’m having a curmudgeonly rant, let me share three more of my current least-favorite buzzwords:

  • Cloud Based — When it was first coined, this term meant something.  A distributed online computing architecture. That’s a real thing.  But it’s been so horribly abused that it’s lost all meaning.  Most often, it’s used interchangeably with “online.” In which case, “online” would be a much better word to use.
  • Gamification — Please stop it.  I’m not going to sell out my entire address book to your online service just to earn another badge.  Check out Phillip Trippenbach’s excellent article on the topic: Kill it With Fire: why Gamification sucks and Game Dynamics rule.
  • Disruptive — Sure.  You’ve got a great idea.  Your startup is awesome.  And you’re totally going to upend Facebook/Amazon/The Goat Industry.  I’m thrilled.  But please figure out a way to stop using Silicon Valley’s most pernicious cliché.

I could go on whinging all day.  But I’ll end by linking you to a great infographic with 30 buzzwords.  At least it’s self-aware enough to list “infographic” as one of those buzzwords.



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