First there was Workforce 2000, a thick tome published by the Hudson Institute research group that laid out a vision of the work force of the future.
In fact, so influential was the report, published in 1987, that it spawned a whole management lexicon to describe the influx of minority workers, rampant labor shortages and the environments employees would confront during the next century.
Consultants give conferences about its implications. Labor experts regard it as their bible. Personnel administrators keep it within reach on their bookshelves. The government quotes from it regularly. The name of the report itself became a colloquialism.
"We have turned out reports like this since the late '60s," said the Labor Department's Ronald E. Kutscher, though he admits most of those were too technical for the average company executive to care about. The Hudson report "created a level of debate not reached by previous reports and it fell on ears receptive to it."
It also created a vocabulary that is so trendy that Towers Perrin Co., a nationwide benefits consulting firm, took it upon itself to publish a glossary of Workforce 2000 terms to help the people trying to grapple with work force challenges to better understand what they were talking about.
For instance, you're a nobody in management circles these days if you can't pass a multiple-choice test defining words like these:
Boomerang generation: a) Kids who grew up in an age where the boomerang was a popular toy. b) Parents who throw boomerangs at their kids. c) Working-age children who live in their parents' homes.
Early-out programs. a) Passes signed by your supervisor that allow you to leave work early every day. b) Incentives for employees to retire early in return for better retirement and benefits. c) Students who dropped out of college before completing their degrees.
Intergenerational day care. a) Dumping the kids on grandma and grandpa. b) The amount of money baby boomers have paid into the Social Security system. c) Day care for employees' elderly parents as well as children.
Not to be overlooked: "grampies," who are "growing retired active monied people in an excellent state"; "managed care," an umbrella term used to describe a variety of approaches used by employers to control health-care costs; "sandwich generation," meaning people raising children and caring for elderly parents at the same time; and "flexplace," an arrangement where employees work at home or in a satellite office.
Also au courant is tacking the word "plus" onto just about anything that has to do with employee benefits -- "savings plus," "health plus," you name it.
"The words are evolving and tracking the demographic trends," said Vicki L. Dungan, a consultant in Towers Perrin's Washington office. "But it also is more of a trendy kind of thing. It's management du jour."
Some of the words are new ways of saying old things. For example, a "compressed workweek" is what used to be called part time. An "elder care facility" used to be known as a nursing home. Right-sizing was downsizing, which previously was layoffs -- and in the very old days, people were simply fired. Yuppies (young urban professionals) and dinks (double-income, no kids) have become dinosaurs mostly because that market has grown up to become mommy trackers (a career path for women with children), telecommuters (people who work from home) and gold-collar workers.
Words that become part of the business landscape don't just fall from the sky. They come from people like Robert E. Kelley, an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University's graduate school of industrial administration, who was searching for a title for a book he wrote on "brain-powered" workers.
"I was thinking about these people and their brain power," Kelley said. "They are an asset of a corporation. They are like gold."
Voila`! The gold-collar worker was born and has been so widely used that it is being considered for inclusion in the next edition of the American Heritage Dictionary, Kelley said.
Kelley currently is working on popularizing another one of his management theories: follower- ship, which is the flip side of leadership.
Now, back to the multiple-choice test. The answers are C, B and C.
If you had a perfect score you're ready for a more demanding assignment called "Managerial Literacy," a new book that covers 1,200 terms that are must-knows for budding managers.
"Failing to register allusions to Greta Garbo, Handel or the Alamo, although regrettable, is less compromising for a manager than not registering references to strategic planning, Fortress Europe, profit center, joint venture, marketing mix, operating income or economies of scale," Gary Shaw and Jack Weber wrote in their book "Managerial Literacy."
And you thought Workforce 2000 lingo was tough.