Is it time to think differently about job titles?

Job titles help us define our identity, self-esteem, and status. It is safe to say that many are proud of the job title they have worked hard to get whilst others have a specific title in mind they are striving for, but do job titles hold more good or bad? Do they help reward individuals financially for their hard work or are they too limiting, inhibiting productivity and growth? Is a re-brand of titles the answer?

Research suggests that job titles have the power to improve our wellbeing and sense of control, prevent us from feeling socially snubbed and even encourage us to apply for a job in the first place. Job titles serve to confer status and to give a name to an employee’s accomplishments, meaning a lot of people are indeed proud of their title in the workplace. But do they always effectively encapsulate someone’s day to day job?

It has been pointed out that job titles can draw boundaries, for example a sales manager not thinking about the communications department because it doesn’t fall within the remit of their title. To counteract this, do companies need to implement cross-departmental collaboration at all levels to tackle titles limiting interactions? Can titles also limit productivity which then inhibits growth? Should opportunities be available for everybody at every level which demonstrates that the company wants them to stretch and grow as an individual? Another recognised problem with titles is that they embed a focus on the individual instead of group achievement. Is true leadership when all members of the team have risen to a level even higher than those who mentored them?

Two questions posed were “how old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” and “what job title would employees do at your company if they didn’t know what their job title was?” Could translating this way of thinking across the workforce bring about positive change?

Do titles need to see a re-invention? Indeed, the hiring platform has found that “people” is outstripping the traditional title of “human resources”, as well as “talent acquisition” being up 75% whilst “recruitment” is down 19% since 2019. Would “client success” or “customer success” create a more positive response instead of “sales”?

Experts and employees say there is an upside to flashy and somewhat arbitrary job titles as they can help an employee feel more valued. Will having innovative job titles bring strategic benefits? Some would argue that rebranding job titles could complicate the recruitment process with unrecognised job titles coming to the fore. Or do we need to look at it from a different perspective and question algorithms and recruitment in general and whether the approach is too narrow?

Consistent titles help diversity and equity, as it provides clear career ladders, pathways, and salaries. It has also been argued that rebranding of titles can go too far, creating titles that are meaningless outside of the organisation making it hard for the recruiter as well as the candidate. A rebrand seems attractive, but do we need to be careful how far it goes?

Moving forward, do we need to see boards thinking differently about job titles and how they can be coined to get more out of their employees? Are we stuck in a period where job titles have turned into a currency used as a bargaining chip, instead of a tool that can facilitate great work?

Written by Izzy Mchattie, EP Business in Hospitality