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Fancy corporate shams: One with overhyped job titles — ETHRWorld

Fancy corporate shams: One with overhyped job titles — ETHRWorld

A social media profile of a Malaysian CEO calls him a Sales Ninja Grandmaster. Imagine seeing that on the top of anyone’s resume and wondering what role the person has in his organisation! Not just in workspaces and workplaces, corporations have always amused themselves with fancy job titles. For instance, an employee at a subway restaurant is called Sandwich Artist.

However, the world of job titles isn’t just fancy. In most cases, companies, particularly startups, have a weird relationship with designations. They often break the ice with prospective candidates by offering them inflated job titles. In fact, a Twitter user, who is apparently also an investor, wrote how startups have very young chief financial officers, with just 3–4 years of experience in the real world.

All of this works fine until one day when the startup starts expanding. More employees, more clients, and more experienced employees are needed. Often the situation doesn’t work well for both parties. Companies often try to justify lesser salaries through inflated job titles. It also does not go well when candidates try to switch ships.

On what can be other reasons why companies give fancy or inflated job titles to their employees, some employees feel companies never miss a chance to be in vogue. For others, this is just another way to ensure their employees stay for a long time.

For Nitin Rana, 24, fancy titles are just a short-term charm. “In the end, these titles lose their sheen, and reality hits hard when you have to explain your role and justify your title with your responsibilities to some other probable recruiter,” Rana says. He works in a digital marketing firm based in Bengaluru.

What justifies the trend of inflated/fancy titles?

Inflated titles are offered because of various reasons. “All of us are unique and so are our requirements for fulfilment. Some find solace in designations; others ask for money and for many benefits like work-life balance is important. Going by the mantra of hyper-personalisation, companies try to go innovative with designation, wherever required and use it as a retention tool,” says Gauri Das, VP & Head — HR, India Factoring and Finance Solutions.

The fact that a fancy title does not cost money and is not necessarily linked with the paycheck, makes it an easy tool for employee happiness.

Another reason for fancy designation, according to Das, is to compensate for low payouts by giving a very high social status through designations.

Apparently, Das has also seen employees coming forward on their own with a designation of their choice which are super creative ones. Experts feel that one of the reasons can also be to create a buzz on social media.

“ Fancy designations help you get many eyeballs,” Das points out.

For instance, designations like Customer Service Evangelist, Marketing Dynamo, Head of First Impressions (Receptionist), Opportunity Creator (Business Development), Master of Disaster (the one who helps federal agencies with information to manage calamities), Chief Catalyst, and Buzz Ambassadors (for Communication Professionals) seem to be work of some highly creative brains.

However, a typical problem of inflated job titles in growing organisations is, “Head above Head,” says Dr Prasanth Nair, CHRA (Chief HR Advisor), TVS Capital Funds and Leadership Advisor, ZingHR, adding, “The title ‘Head’ is given to someone and as the organisation scales up, they need to get someone else…then what title will you give?”

Inflated or fancy titles are seen as a “non-cash feel good” factor given our social construct. And the fancy title, according to Nair, helps organisations be seen as “different”. Especially since the traditional title approach is considered conservative and not attractive enough.

The world of job titles has a lot to do with attracting Gen Z as well. For the uninitiated, experts say it is being positioned as an attraction for the Gen Z talent precisely as they are born in the era of social media and many times such ‘cool’ titles give them a good social media bio. It is impressive for them!

How much do titles matter?

Breaking the ice for both employer and employees here. “Both internally and externally, titles do matter,” says Sheetal Kotian, Co-Founder & Executive Director — Business Solutions, GALF.

Kotian explains there is a certain logic behind this strategy, even though the company doesn’t entirely endorse it because it might become highly deceptive in terms of expectations for both executive-level employees and external recruitment teams.

To give jobs a fresh perspective, titles may be used to reframe conversations. Additionally, it may benefit businesses that want to stand out and promote their innovative cultures. “It influences the employee’s attitude, their performance and their career in general, as well as potential future employers and recruiters from other firms. Eventually, people can see through what the organisation and individuals have to offer,” says Kotian.

However, experts are divided when it comes to job titles and fancy corporate “shams”.

For Manoj Kumar Sharma, CHRO, Aarti Industries, in the long run, what’s written on the business card doesn’t matter. It is ultimately about experience and skills. “Like companies give fascinating joining bonuses in the form of a Royal Enfield or an iPhone, such titles might seem fancy to job-lookers,” Sharma says, adding, “But I still won’t call it a gimmick. It is merely a talent attraction tactic.”

Being authentic and sensible is the rule of the game

Nothing against creativity but in Das’ view, going overboard does not help employees or the employer. “Balance is the key,” she says.

Experts feel anything which is not supported by the area of work for people, is an issue. It is not sustainable. But if proper roles and responsibilities back it, it may sustain.

“Fundamentals should not change. If they change, then such fancy titles are just a short-term charm. Unique practices like this, which are distinct, should be initiated, but again the fundamentals shouldn’t get hurt!” Sharma of Aarti Industries asserts.

“But at the end, everything boils down to how sustainable these companies can be in the long term,” he adds.

A firm shouldn’t use fancy job names to cover up for the lack of advancement, growth, and remuneration it provides to its employees. A job title, in Kotian’s view, is crucial. “And some firms undoubtedly don’t understand this,” Sharma remarks.

Experts are of the opinion that eventually, people can see through what the organisation and individuals have to offer. Employers must therefore exercise caution when allocating job titles. In addition, how an employer treats an employee is at least as important as the job title they give them

“Although using job titles to increase employee morale might be beneficial, it shouldn’t come at the expense of misrepresentation and inadequate compensation. We feel that role content and the impact that they create in a company are far more valuable than just designations. Also, designations need to reflect the actual influencing ability of the role authentically. Being authentic and sensible is the rule of the game,” Kotian adds.

A good practice, in Nair’s opinion, would be to design a future organisation and have a “title bouquet” at different levels from which individuals can choose at those levels.

“But ultimately, individuals and organisations will realise that it is a value add that’s important,” Nair adds.

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