April 29, 2021 Alex Lang

It’s Time to Spring Clean the Titles in your Job Closet

During the winter process of conducting performance and merit reviews, your employees may have also received promotions with new titles.  Perhaps over the year, your company acquired or merged with another, and your company held on to the employees’ legacy titles to make the integration process move faster.  You may have noticed that some locations of your company are using different titles for what you thought were the same job at your site.  In recent surveys, your managers and employees may have shared comments about their confusion about the difference between manager versus senior manager titles. You may have wondered if it was vital to add that specific technology to a job title. You may have noticed the Director jobs are similar but used in different ways – for example, “Marketing Director”, “Director Marketing”, “Director of Marketing”, “Director, Marketing” – are there secret values placed on the comma or word ‘of’?  Maybe your company has 425 unique job titles, and your company only has 450 positions.

If any of these examples sound familiar – perhaps it’s time for a job title clean-up!

The number of positions for a company correlates with company growth and its respective increased amount of work required to deliver on commitments.  Think of positions as the boxes on an organization chart.  Positions are filled by employees or vacant, waiting for the hiring of candidates.  Each position is assigned a job that describes the body of work that the position’s incumbent is responsible for delivering.

The number of jobs a company creates correlates with the company’s needs in a few ways.

Let’s say your company needs another position to support the demands falling on the Inside Sales team.  It is essential to distinguish the job’s level of complexity, authority, and accountability.  Yet, there are other questions to consider: 

What level of experience and education would the ideal candidate have? 

How will your company’s internal experience and exposures shape an employee’s career trajectory with this job? 

What is the typical career path for employees in this job? 

What level of talent does your company need to appropriately and affordably fulfill its demands?

We’ve heard how leaders feel titles are free and make employees feel good.  A job’s title is a shortened description that quickly identifies the type of work and responsibilities.  It should also align with a shared understanding of its level of authority and accountability within the company. For example, there may be multiple positions assigned with the same job, such as an Inside Sale Representative II.  Here we see it is a job in the Inside Sales job family or group of jobs that require similar experience and education.  It also quickly shows that it is a level higher than an entry-level job by the “II.” 

A job title is less confusing when aligned well to an internal structure while somewhat mirroring similar expectations externally.

When implementing a career hierarchy, consider what jobs to include now versus down the road a bit.  A company may assign a range of minimum requirements that aligns with the growth stages for an employee in that job’s specialty (e.g., Inside Sales Representative Levels I, II, III).  Imagine if all Inside Sales Representatives were at the lowest level and learning their jobs?  That may cause harm to the performance of that functional area.  At the same time, imagine if all Inside Sales Representatives were at the highest, most senior level that may cause that function to be high performance, yet high in talent costs.  It would be best to determine what jobs should be open for use today to support business goals and budgets.