Chief Happiness Officer. Responsible for people and culture. Head of goal. Today, most job titles affixed to business cards aren’t quite what we’ve traditionally grown accustomed to.
Ten years ago, roles such as trust officer and talent officer did not exist in organizations. But with companies redefining existing roles and creating new ones, unusual job titles have become the norm.
Most of these titles are descriptive in nature, often indicating the role played by the holder.
The most common change of all is that of “people and culture” managers, as some human resources (HR) practitioners are now called.
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Other titles used for HR include ‘personnel officer’ or ‘human capital manager’ as organizations seek to keep abreast of the changing times.
But why specifically are traditional roles turning into more contemporary titles? What is driving this change?
Experts argue that it’s about making the different roles as “human” as possible as organizations strive to be people-centric in their operations.
Paul Ngugi, director of human resources and culture at Greenpeace Africa, says this is aimed at improving the experience of employees in the workplace.
“It could also be used to develop and improve a high performance culture within an organization,” says Ngugi.
By changing titles and redefining roles, Ngugi says employees’ place in an organization is amplified, and it helps to integrate work-life balance.
Jane Mbati, head of human resources and culture at Zamara, a financial services company, explains that the title change depends on creating more collaborations in the workplace and providing employees with an environment productive in which to work and thrive.
”It’s also about making sure employees are happy and impacted in a meaningful way. People are people. These are not resources to be used,” she adds.
Sometimes, however, the title change has nothing to do with employee morale. Instead, it is done purely for aesthetic reasons. After all, a “conversion manager” seems a little more stylish than a salesperson.
Author and journalist Nick Easen, however, says an employee’s skill matters more than their job title, but admits that new titles tend to appeal to employees on an emotional level.
“Intentionally ambiguous and creative, the titles have become a sign of the evolution of the workplace. In the era of funky start-ups, for example, companies try to tap into declining talent through titles,” he writes.
The rebranding of crucial office titles instills a sense of warmth among employees, making them feel valued rather than mere tools to generate profits, Mbati says.
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Nowadays, it is common for professionals to leave their well-paid jobs in companies that lack an environment conducive to their well-being at all levels.
It is in this desire to create human-centered experiences, to ensure the holistic well-being of employees and to retain their staff that some job titles constantly change in some organizations.
Gabriel Nyamu, the director of Purpose Verse, explains that roles such as HR have evolved over the years, having initially been called personnel management, which he said had “administrative” connotations.
He says it felt like “a foreman on site supervising workers with a whip.”
Later, the term human resources was adopted with the recognition by employers that their people were a resource.
“Back then, employees only showed up to work because they had to sign records and complete their reviews. This way, they would only give the company half of their potential,” Nyamu notes.
More importantly, job titles are more outward looking. With today’s businesses operating in perhaps the most challenging environment, reputation is priceless.
Mbati says, “People want to do business with the best organizations that match their values and expectations. The job of a human resources and culture manager, for example, is to help the organization attract, retain and manage the best talent.
Overall, employers are changing job titles in an effort to make workplaces less rigid and to make them more accommodating and welcoming.
Ngugi says titles sometimes get rebranded when a company is looking to attract new customers and talent.
“Certain titles can make an organization look dangerously conservative. That’s why changing your title can help demonstrate that you’re relevant to your space,” he explains.
Indeed, some professionals have left their well-paying jobs to focus on “life,” especially when their employers have not deliberated on promoting and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Quresha Abdullahi, executive director of the Institute of Human Resource Management, notes that while it is human to resist change, employees also fear the impacts of new roles.
“Rebranding brings new skills. It is only when a person has failed to improve their skills that they may see the change as a threat,” she says, adding that an organization must explain any change introduced and its impacts.
According to Abdullahi, a title change in an organization must have the interests of the employees at heart. It should also only be introduced if it empowers them.
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