How relevant are job titles in the working world today?

Emma Budd

13/11/2015
Categories: HR

When you’re at an event and someone you’ve just met asks ‘so, what do you do?’, do you respond by telling them your job title, or by explaining your role?

Whilst job titles are incredibly important when it comes to applying for jobs, getting a promotion or showing status, they don’t always explain roles accurately. Can a few words ever do the work you do justice? And how relevant are they in today’s workplace? 

In a bid to bring job titles to life and keep them interesting, companies are getting creative with the titles they give their employees. From stepping into an Apple store and being greeted by a ‘Genius’, to tweeting a ‘Happiness Hero’ at social media scheduling platform Buffer, it’s becoming more and more common to have creative titles.  

Whilst these labels add an element of fun to the workplace, making roles sound interesting and exciting, are they making job titles even more abstract and difficult to decipher? One of the biggest problems related to having an inventive job title comes when you’re looking for a new job, as recruiters may not understand how your current role is relevant.  

Gethin Nadin is Benefex’s ‘Director of Ecosystems’, he says; “previously I had the title 'Head of Strategic Alliances' and, when appropriate, I used to introduce myself by saying 'I have a Star Wars sounding job title...', and it always helped to raise a smile at a first meeting and hopefully helped to break the ice. 

Now as 'Director of Ecosystems' it helps to establish who Benefex are quite quickly. For those who are familiar with the term, they understand it relates to a collective group of software or technology. For those who don't, there's an immediate opportunity to explain and set Benefex out as a forward thinking company for the outset.” 

He adds, “a quirky title to grab someone's attention is great, but it still needs to mean something.”

Should we eradicate job titles all together?

We ran a poll on Twitter, asking the question ‘would you say your job title clearly describes what you do?’, and 53% of respondents said no, it doesn’t. But does this mean that job titles are becoming less and less useful? Should we stop using them all together?

A company known for challenging the norm is American online retailer Zappos. In recent years they’ve introduced a new approach to organising the company, getting rid of the traditional corporate structure and removing job titles. 

This particular approach is called Holacracy, which is “a new way of running an organisation” where “dynamic roles replace static job descriptions” and “transparent rules replace office politics”.

If changing an entire company structure is too drastic, a different approach could be to regulate job titles across industries, with set job titles for each role and level of seniority.

Job titles across reward and benefits

We analysed the job titles of 2,652 Compensation and Benefits professionals. Across the data we found 1,176 unique job titles, with the most popular being ‘Pensions Manager’. However, Pensions Managers accounted for less than 6% of people across the database.

At the top of the list there’s also 144 ‘Reward Managers’ and 122 ‘Compensation & Benefits Managers’, before the popularity starts dropping to 89 people with the title ‘Head of Reward’.

Certain elements of job titles are more consistent than others, with words including ‘Reward’, ‘Pensions’ and ‘Benefits’ popular throughout. However, the parts relating to seniority and role provide variation, for example, the database shows ‘Compensation & Benefits Co-ordinators’, ‘Compensation & Benefits Officers’ and ‘Compensations & Benefits Managers’.

Whilst these titles appear reasonably understandable, could an agreed approach across the industry clear up confusion?

Does your job title describe your role? Would a set of industry standard formats make this process simpler, or would you prefer a more creative title? Or should we remove job titles altogether? Let us know in the comments, or send us a tweet @Benefex_UK 

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