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Glossary of Terms

As the landscape of global workforce strengthening continues to evolve, so too are the key terms and concepts used. This Glossary of Terms provides readers with a resource to define these, as they apply in current practice.

The Glossary of Terms is intended to be a "living resource", and content will be updated and amended as needed. In addition, the Editorial staff invites you to recommend content for expanding the definition of a current term, or introducing a new one. Please share the term and associated definition including supporting links to: The Editorial staff will review submitted content and determine applicability for inclusion.

Overarching Terms

Workforce Strengthening

The following definition of workforce strengthening is healthcare-specific; however the Editorial Board of the Journal of Interprofessional Workforce Research and Development endorses it as a definition that applies across industries.

The health workforce plays a central and critical role in improving access to quality health care for the population. Mechanisms for optimizing the skills and skill-mix of health professionals are essential to strengthening health systems and achieving better health outcomes.

Recent global and regional efforts have reiterated the urgency of addressing the increasing challenges for health workforces; these include shortages, imbalances, educational quality and productivity concerns. Strategies for human resources planning should adopt a comprehensive perspective by addressing demand, supply and the problems inherent with mobility. Approaches that focus on the training of individuals without taking into account the work environment and mobility, will have limited success. Scaling up education in an isolated way will not compensate for weak motivation, and high attrition.

World Health Organization. “Toolkit for Country Health Workforce Strengthening”. (2012).

Skill Economy

We are increasingly defined not by our title or the company we work for, but by the skills we possess, who we’ve worked with and what we’ve accomplished

Chase Jarvis on “The future of work is here: The skill economy”. (November 24, 2016).

Talent Economy

An open talent economy is a collaborative, transparent, technology-enabled, rapid-cycle way of doing business. Supported by an array of megatrends ranging from globalization and mobility to social business and analytics, employers and employees seek each other out on a broad level playing field.

Jeff Schwartz for Deloitte. “Open Talent Economy”.

Gig Economy

A labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.

Oxford English Dictionary.


Approach to staffing, hiring, and related efforts which focuses on specific jobs, titles, or occupational roles as well as required education and degrees.


Approach to staffing, hiring, and related efforts focused on the knowledge, skills, and abilities individuals must possess, and the precision skills strengthening to allow the individual to attain these requisite skills and knowledge-bases. This allows employees to create personal training plans in mapping their respective career pathways.

Skill Insecurity

Individual concern and stress regarding possessing/not possessing the skills (and associated knowledge and abilities) to adequately complete tasks associated with one’s work

Job Insecurity

Concerns and stress regarding one’s employment and ability to remain employed in a position

See also:

Healthcare Ecosystem

The healthcare "system" is today understood as an ecosystem of interconnected stakeholders, each one charged with a mission to improve the quality of care while lowering its cost. To ensure patient safety and quality care while realizing savings, these stakeholders are building new relationships — often outside the four walls of the hospital.

Thomas, B. “The new healthcare ecosystem: 5 emerging relationships”. Becker’s Hospital Review (October 3, 2014).

Allied Health

The Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions defines allied health as the segment of the health care field “that delivers services involving the identification, evaluation and prevention of diseases and disorders; dietary and nutrition services; and rehabilitation and health systems management.”

See also:


The implementation of new or altered products, services, processes, systems, policies, organizational structures, or business models that aim to improve one or more domains of health care quality or reduce healthcare disparities.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. “Frequently Asked Questions”: How do you define health care innovation?”.

Pipeline/Talent Pipeline

An organization’s ongoing need to have a pool of talent that is readily available to all positions at all levels

Bersin by Deloitte. “Term Details: Talent Pipeline”.


Apprenticeship is a career pathway that includes a paid-work component and an educational or instructional component, where an individual can obtain workplace-relevant knowledge and skills.

U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenticeship

Pathway/Career Pathway

A series of structured and connected education and training programs and support services that enable individuals, often while they are working, to advance over time into better jobs and higher levels of education and training

Career Ladders Project. “A Definition of Career Pathways”.

Connecting progressive levels of education, training, support services, and credentials in a way that optimizes the progress and success of individuals with varying levels of abilities and needs. This approach helps individuals earn marketable credentials, engage in further education and employment, and achieve economic success.

Center for Postsecondary Economic Success. “Alliance for Quality Career Pathways”.

Career Mapping/Pathing

Career Mapping provides employees and employers with a clear roadmap that outlines what it takes for workers to get from their current position to where they want to be

Hein, R. “Career Mapping Offers a Clear Path for Both Employees and Employers”. CIO (December 5, 2012).


Being able to produce something with the minimum amount of time and resources

Velaction: Continuous Improvement. “Definition: Efficiency in Lean”.


r=P/C à Efficiency is often measured as the ratio of useful output to total input, which can be expressed with the mathematical formula r=P/C, where P is the amount of useful output ("product") produced per the amount C ("cost") of resources consumed.

Wikipedia. “Efficiency”.


Measurements that show how well process output(s) meet the needs of customers, both internal and external

Global Six Sigma. “Measuring Effectiveness as Part of Six Sigma Implementation”. February 3, 2014.


The process of integrating a new employee with a company and its culture, as well as getting a new hire the tools and information needed to become a productive member of the team.


Onboarding is often confused with orientation. While orientation might be necessary—paperwork and other routine tasks must be completed-onboarding is a comprehensive process involving management and other employees that can last up to 12 months.

SHRM. New Employee Orientation Guide.

Quality Management

The act of overseeing all activities and tasks needed to maintain a desired level of excellence. This includes the determination of a quality policy, creating and implementing quality planning and assurance, and quality control and quality improvement. It is also referred to as total quality management (TQM)

Investopedia. “What is ‘Quality Management’?”.


Assembling value-creating steps in a tight sequence to enable value to flow quickly through the system.

Innovation Excellence. The Principles of Lean Innovation.

Competency-Related Terms

Common Language

A framework/set of criteria for occupational role competencies and skills to be applied within and between industries. A common language ensures standardization of terms.

American Institute for Innovative Apprenticeship. “US Apprenticeships”.

Common Employability Skills

According to the National Network of Business and Industry Associations (NNBIA),[i] Common Employability Skills include four categories of “core competencies” needed for success in all market sectors. These include 1) personal skills, 2) people skills, 3) applied knowledge, and 4) workplace skills. These skills are needed for workplace success in any new or emerging position regardless of industry. The Common Employability Skills framework serves as a foundation for all industries and reinforces their applicability in all professions and job families. Obtainment of these skills is critical for the success of those joining the workforce, as well as for advancement for individuals already in the workforce.

National Network of Business and Industry Associations. “Common Employability Skills” (March 2015).


A learnable, measurable and/or observable, role-relevant, and behavior-based characteristic or capability of an individual.

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).


Micro-learning is an eLearning modality that delivers bite-sized content/modules to learners on specific, targeted topics. What is Microlearning?


What an individual can do in applying knowledge, completing tasks, and solving problems involving the use of logical, intuitive, and creative thinking. Skills can be described in terms of types and complexity and include cognitive, technical, communication, interpersonal, and practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments)

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).


What a person knows, understands, and can demonstrate in terms of a body of facts, principles, theories, and practices related to broad general and/or specialized fields of study or work.

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).

Cross-cutting Competencies

Knowledge and skills not specific to a particular field or discipline – competencies which are generally valuable across most if not all educational programs and employment environments.

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).

Emerging Role

Occupational roles not previously seen in the marketplace but which are growing in need/popularity, often due to changes in technology, regulation, and consumer demand.

Experiential Learning

The process of learning through experience, more specifically defined as "learning through reflection on doing."

Felicia, Patrick (2011). Handbook of Research on Improving Learning and Motivation. p. 1003.

Learning Outcome

What a learner is expected to know, understand, or be able to do after successful completion of a planned process of learning.

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).

Credential-Related Terms


A documented award by a responsible and authorized body that attests that an individual has achieved specific learning outcomes or attained a defined level of knowledge or skill relative to a given standard. Credential, in this context, is an umbrella term that includes degrees, diplomas, licenses, certificates, badges, and professional/industry certifications.

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).


Badges use digital technologies to represent learning achievements for specific granular competencies, skills, or knowledge. They may be created and awarded by institutions, organizations, groups, or individuals. Given their flexibility, badges bridge traditional, accredited credentials, professional and industry-recognized credentials, and non-traditional, experimental credentials.

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).


Micro-credentials are a competency-based digital form of certification indicating demonstrated competency/mastery in a specific skill or set of skills. They can be issued for formal and informal professional learning experiences that support developing skills and acquiring knowledge. Micro-credentials are often comprised of one or more badges, and may stand on their own as a demonstration of knowledge/competence or may build toward a certificate, credential, or degree.

National Education Association. “Micro-credential Guidance”

Incumbent Worker

An incumbent worker must be:

  1. A U.S. citizen or otherwise legally entitled to work in the U.S.;
  2. Age 18 or older;
  3. Registered for the Selective Service (males who are 18 or older and born on or after January 1, 1960) unless an exception is justified;
  4. Employed;
  5. Meet the Fair Standards Act requirements for an employer-employee relationship; and
  6. Have an established employment history with the employer for six (6) months or more.

Workforce Central. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity act (WIOA) Policy.

Working Learner

Those who work and learn at the same time. This learning may include formal education, skills training, and personal development.

ACT Foundation. “National. Learning. Economy. The NEW American Dream” (July 2014).

Stacked Credentials

A sequence of credentials, accumulated over time, that build up an individual’s qualifications and help that individual move along a career pathway to further education, different responsibilities, and potentially higher paying jobs.

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).

Latticed Credentials

Credentials that are interwoven with each other in mutually supporting ways, such as educational progress toward a license and a degree simultaneously

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).


Portability (of credentials/certifications) means the credential has value locally, nationally and perhaps internationally in labor markets, education systems, and/or other contexts. A portable credential can be used in a variety of environments, and the context and competencies the credential represents remain intact and are accessible by credential consumers. A portable credential enables earners to move vertically and horizontally within and across the credentialing ecosystem for attainment of other credentials

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).


Credentials are easy to understand and compare. Competencies represented by the credential are clearly defined, and information about the credential and its value is clearly provided to earners, issuers, endorsers and consumers of credentials

Connecting Competency. “Glossary of Credentialing Terms” (June 2016).

[i] National Network of Business and Industry Associations. Common Employability Skills: A Foundation for Success in the Workplace: The Skills All Employees Need, No Matter Where They Work. 2015. Available at