Do Your Employees Have the Right Job Titles?

A job by any other title might not be as sweet.

Accurate, consistent and meaningful job titles can let prospective employees know whether they have the qualifications to apply for a given job. Titles can also provide current jobholders with a fair sense of their experience and worth—now and in the future.

When job titles are consistently applied throughout an industry, they can communicate effectively to employees and employers. Clear and consistent job titles help potential employees and prospects grasp a quick, accurate sense of a job’s requirements and responsibilities, and desired work experience.

The Downside of Creative, Non-Specific Titles

Some companies have gone the creative route in recent years, creating unusual, inspirational and sometimes quite offbeat titles, such as “Office Ninja,” “Guru,” “Jedi,” “Rockstar” or “Wizard.” The problem is that those titles, while fun and cool sounding, provide little or no clarity on what the position involves, how much experience is needed or the level of responsibility that is associated with it.

For example, if you were seeking an administrative assistant job would you think of searching for “Office Ninja” jobs to find your next position? And what of the current Office Ninja? How much harder might it be for that person to find their next job? Would recruiters know what an Office Ninja or Jedi actually does or what their level of experience might be?

No matter how big or small your business, it’s important to put some thought into the titles you give employees. Here are some tips for choosing titles that make the right impression.

  1. Survey other companies in your industry.

    To create meaningful job titles that are consistent with those used outside of your workplace, monitor industry norms. Do the requisite research so you can align your organization’s job titles with external jobs for consistency.

  2. Invite employee input.

    Letting employees have some say in their job titles, within established parameters, can be empowering for them. It can also serve as a reality check if a job’s responsibilities have shifted, and the title no longer accurately reflects the primary duties or overall scope of a job.

  3. Gather input from commonly searched job titles.

    Whimsical titles might seem fun while conveying meaning within a given department of an organization. However, if recruiting top talent is important to you, uncommon titles could be problematic if they mean nothing outside of your workplace. Especially if titles give a misleading sense of a job’s level of responsibility.

  4. Be consistent in established criteria.

    Create a protocol to establish a reliable system for creating consistent job titles. For example, you might have a set of criteria that every job title must adhere to. This could be particularly important if your organization invites employee suggestions. Guardrails created by an established protocol will help to retain consistency.

  5. Be clear and accurate.

    Clarity is essential. The job title should be easily understandable and relevant to the tasks done and level of experience required.

  6. Consider the jobholder’s expertise, level of experience and responsibilities.

    A “senior manager” conveys a distinct level of experience compared with a “manager.” A “manager” indicates a higher level of responsibility than a “supervisor.” Choose all words in a job title with an eye on the levels of seniority, experience and accountability that come with each job.

  7. Focus on the most critical aspects of the job.

    Some jobs involve diverse tasks or responsibilities. Rather than try to capture everything that a job entails, focus on the most critical aspects while keeping in mind the need for a title that is clear, accurate, consistent and meaningful.

  8. Appeal to prospective employees.

    The job title will directly influence who applies for the job. Who are the ideal candidates? What title will attract people with the right qualifications? Getting that right can attract the most qualified candidates and save time for job applicants as well as those who review applications and screen the short list of job candidates.

  9. Align titles with appropriate salary ranges.

    If someone has a lofty title but isn’t paid accordingly, resentment can build. This could also occur when hiring to fill a job with a title that isn’t matched with a corresponding salary level. Consistency and fair compensation are always worth keeping in mind when creating job titles.

Three Things to Do

  1. Once you understand pay transparency laws, read how to make your payroll process run more smoothly.
  2. Listen to a podcast on building a good workplace culture.
  3. Read how to grow a more established business.