Renaming traditional designations with fancy job titles is a well-thought-out exercise, and not really a passing fad
The workplace keeps changing – and currently, this is happening at a much faster pace than anyone imagined ever before. But not all jobs change or transform. Some basic roles would always be there as long as the business is carried on the way we know it. However, it is increasingly a trend across industries to rename job designations with titles that often sound way more tangential for the role they describe. And there might be diverse reasons for such name changes.
All in a name
What do you think could be the role of a “retail Jedi”? Or, for that matter, a “first impressions manager”? While the holder of the first title would be helping you around in a retail store, the second one is the person whom you approach first upon entering any establishment – a healthcare center, a bank, or an office. And if you have still not guessed them correctly, let me clarify that both of these roles have existed for nearly over two hundred years now, if not more!
“Retail Jedi” is a fancy coinage for the shop assistants, while “first impressions manager” is nothing but a receptionist.
In a rapidly shifting world, designations are evolving as organizations look for descriptions that can either better convey the role in a more inclusive manner (as with “first impressions manager”) or simply connect to the new-age consumer by using contemporary phrasing (as with “retail Jedi”).
Just a gimmick, do you say? That might not explain it all.
Naming conventions are well-thought-out exercises, and a name – either of a product, a business, or a job role – can express a lot in today’s consumer-oriented market. Especially when it comes to a job title, things can work (or not work) both ways: outwardly, it reaches out to the clients who interact with the organization – inwardly, it stands for the values and responsibilities the bearer of the title is expected to execute. It is a distinctive identity that businesses can no longer overlook. The renaming spree is also indicative of newer innovations in both strategy and technology – leading to new roles that need amended job descriptions and corresponding job titles.
Even a title as basic and traditional as Human Resource Manager is now being repositioned as “Diversity and Inclusion Manager”. Interestingly, the shift in approach can be perceived just through this one title. While the previous nomenclature branded humans as resources – a mindset that is fast being rejected – the new title definitely emanates positive vibes through the use of the words “diversity” and “inclusion”. Both of these are sensitive causes that are being much championed in a more receptive worldview, and any organization that uses this new title will instantly project an image that is both employee-friendly and socially responsible.
Better, Bigger, Happier
Let’s sample a few more of these new-fangled job titles:
- Fair Practices Hiring Manager(formerly Recruitment Manager)
- Care Delivery Manager(Service Delivery Manager)
- Brand Ambassador(Sales Executive)
- Customer Success/Customer Happiness Manager(Customer ServiceExecutive)
- Problem Wrangler(Counsellor)
- Chief Growth Officer(Marketing Head)
- Growth Hacker(Sales/Marketing Representative)
Each of the new titles listed above exudes an aspirational tone. The title bearers appear to stand for values and ideals of a better world of tomorrow – whatever that might be! Apart from sounding better, most of the former designations have become lengthier in their new avatars. This can lend gravity and respectability – although perhaps at the cost of clarity. However, in a severely shrinking talent market, such titles could easily draw in a wider talent pool that might have otherwise shunned similar roles owing to traditionally downmarket job titles.
And this feel-good factor is definitely a strong reason for criticism this new trend is facing. Many feel that start-ups are floating unnecessarily grandiose job titles just to hoodwink both the candidates and the customers. Although it is not directly unethical, some are of the opinion that referring to a bartender by the title of “Chief Beverage Officer” or a Sales Executive by “Brand Ambassador” does imply some sense of falsification. The customer who interacts with these job title holders always know what role they actually execute – and so do the employees themselves. So why the elaboration, critics argue.
Of course, in principle, this approach is positive, decent, and politically correct. But a balance must be struck so that the titles do not go overboard – and, in this age of sarcastic social media, turn into a topic of public ridicule.
A sign of the times
But sprucing up existing job titles with lavish decorations is not all of it. The paradigm shift that our civilization is going through in terms of technological advances, has made it absolutely necessary for certain job titles to be redefined. The pivot of such designations has now shifted as new demands stemming from business transformation diffuse the boundaries between related tasks and departments. Eventually, the emerging designation is not only different by name but by functional responsibilities as well.
A good example of such straddling across multiple roles is the rapid acceptance of the designation “Chief Innovation Officer” – or its parallel “Chief Digitisation Officer”. Formerly, both of these were referred to as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). But while “innovation” is something not limited to the technology vertical alone, “digitization” is now an active enabler for organizational growth with a much wider scope and responsibilities than the more back-end, infrastructural tasks of a traditional technology officer. The new names, therefore, mean more than the old ones – just like the functions involved are more in sync with the new-age gig economy.
There are unique advantages too. Many such emerging roles cannot be filled with specialists yet because these are still to gain currency as dedicated domains. This is, in fact, a boon in disguise. Consequently, interested employees with diverse talents and seeking opportunities elsewhere often decide to make a lateral shift to try out the new roles. This has frequently thrown up splendid results. Both the individual and the organization are eventual winners.
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