Rebranding Job Titles a Challenge for HR

Rebranding Job Titles a Challenge for HR

A new trend in the workplace–rebranding job titles to add a bit of charm, fun, or humor to the workplace– can both attract younger workers, impact innovation, and give staff a light-hearted look at leadership. On the downside, however, rebranding job titles can lead to confusion and misunderstood expectations.

New job titles can be both fun and funny. Who wouldn’t like to be an Innovation Hacker, or the Head Viking in Security? Job titles can reduce the distance between leadership and staff, and can lead to improved communication. Change Agents may feel compelled to manage change effectively, and anyone with innovation in their job title will be doing some creative thinking.

Older staff may feel a bit mystified by a new job title, however, and some people will never believe that humor belongs in the workplace. It will be an HR responsibility to write job descriptions to go with the new titles, and to make responsibilities concrete, with lines of reporting and responsibility spelled out, no matter how abstract the new titles sound. A careful ear to the ground may give leadership the head’s up if there is dissent about a new change such as rebranding job titles.

Some guidelines for new job titles to avoid problems include:

  • use nothing gender-specific
  • don’t use words that may cause cross-cultural misunderstandings
  • don’t substitute humor for respect
  • team or sports metaphors are probably outdated
  • avoid terms associated with absolute power, such as Queen or Dictator
  • avoid slang, as it changes too rapidly

A workplace can try out rebranding job titles during project management. A specific title related to project roles, which will end with the project, may be a good way to test the waters and identify potential areas of concern that can be addressed before a larger roll-out. Workplaces can also try a small number of new title rebrandings, such as a specific new hire or one group, to evaluate the effectiveness and acceptance of the change.

Job title rebranding can bring a bit of fun and good humor to the workplace, and encourage staff to think in new directions, using new tools. Human resources can carefully manage the change to make sure expectations are clear and the change accepted.