What’s in a Job Title?

Over the last few years there has been a trend to give people fancier job titles. The job role will not have changed, merely the title of the job.

Sales people have become Sales Executives.

Cleaners have become Cleaning Operatives.

Receptionists have become Front Desk Executives.

Sandwich makers have become Sandwich Artists.

The reasoning behind this is that certain jobs have acquired poor reputations. They are not considered attractive or they have become associated with roles that are fulfilled by less able employees.

Even those people doing these jobs do not always have a very high opinion of them. An indication of this is that, too often, when asked what their job is they will precede their answer with “only” or “just”:

“I’m only the cleaner.”

“I just fill shelves.”

“I only work in the back office.”

The aim of job title changes – making them more flamboyant and polished – has generally been to make the employee feel more important and valued than they would otherwise be. If the role sounds important then it must be important.

From the employers point of view the change may also attract a more able, more qualified and more ambitious applicant. By glamming the role up they hope to get a better calibre of employee.

Unfortunately, such endeavours are an example of something that is full of hot air rather than having any substance. It does nothing to enhance performance, motivation or commitment. It’s a façade and most people will see through the change, recognising the superficial, meaningless nature of it.

This is apparent from the fact that outside the workplace, workers with these fancy titles do not tend to describe their jobs in these terms. Do cleaners ever call themselves a Cleaning Operative? They are more likely to be embarrassed by this official title and shy away from using it because of its potential to be mocked.

As an exercise to better engage employees, giving them imaginative job titles is weak and ineffectual.

Instead of trying to fancy jobs up by renaming them, a far more fruitful change would be to ensure that these employees better understand their real role in the organisation.

Too often, employees see their position purely in terms of the job that they do; administrator, cleaner, security guard….. When asked about their role they will be able to accurately describe what they do but, too often, they will not put themselves in the bigger picture.

They may recognise themselves as being a cog in the organisation’s workings but they do not see how that cog fits into the larger machine. They do not think about or see the wider impact of their role. Without such insight there can be no understanding of their importance, necessity or value.

This learning begins with one fundamental message which states that every employee has a singular purpose – to deliver on customer experience.

All employees should be aware that although they may work for their employer – who will pay their wages – at the end of the day, it is the customer that keeps them in a job.

Even those employees that do not have any direct customer interface are a vital component to being able to deliver on that customer experience. They enable others – those with direct customer contact – to do their jobs. They become facilitators, enabling others to deliver on an end product.

Organisations therefore need to foster a customer focus attitude amongst all its employees, not just those with direct customer contact. They need to ensure that no employee feels too removed or isolated from the real world of customer relations.

This is achieved in two ways:

Firstly, by constantly impressing on all employees how they fit into the organisation and the customer experience.

Secondly, by fostering and promoting attitudes and behaviours that encourages employees to see their fellow colleagues as customers.

In practical terms:

The IT helpdesk may not have any direct end-user customer contact but they still have customers, that is, all those users who need their help. Those users –with IT support – are then able to go on and deliver a quality experience to the organisation’s external customers.

A secretary working for a manager will have a direct impact on that manager’s performance (letters produced and sent correctly, reports delivered on time, appointments properly diarised….). The manager becomes the secretary’s customer. Indirectly, farther down the line, that secretary’s actions – through the manager’s work – will then go on to impact on the overall customer service delivered by an organisation.

This attitudinal and behavioural change may not be such a quick fix as changing somebody’s job title but it is the key to improving customer experience and driving the quality of organisational performance.

The manner by which an employee fulfils their occupational duties cannot be defined or enhanced by their job title. It is much more related to an employee’s perception of their significance within an organisation and that is bound up with their understanding of customer relations.