Small business owners often struggle when coming up with a job title for their new employee or when listing an open position at their business. Although we’d all like to think that a job title doesn’t mean that much, it’s actually really important from both an employer and employee point of view.
What Job Titles Mean – and What They Can Do
According to Fast Company, 80% of companies they surveyed use job titles to demonstrate an employee’s position in the company hierarchy. And 92% use job titles to define an employee’s role within the company.
Perhaps even more importantly, job titles can be used as recruitment tools. Since small businesses often struggle to recruit and retain employees, using job titles to find and attract potential applicants is a great tactic. The same Fast Company survey found that only 37% of companies think of using job titles as a recruitment tool, so using this tactic can give small businesses a competitive edge.
Clearly, job titles are more important than one might think at first glance. If your business is growing to the point where titles are important, there are ways to structure your system for clarity, consistency, and communications that will help your business thrive.
Choosing the Best Job Titles for Employees
Job titles help maintain structure within an organization. They serve as a shorthand and communications tool to help employees understand where they fit into an organization and how others do, too. And because they don’t cost anything, they can be used as a recruitment and retention tool.
So how do you go about choosing the best job titles for your employees? Consider these seven points when discovering the best titles for your company.
- “C” titles stand at the top of the hierarchy: The “C-suite” is a designation for the highest level of the company and is a common way to show decision-making power and authority. Reserve “Chief” titles for those in charge of multiple people and/or departments and with corresponding levels of increasing responsibility.
- Give everyone who manages staff a similar title: A consistent naming structure where people who are responsible for the performance of others all share similar designations helps people within the company understand roles and responsibilities. Whether you call them Managers or Directors, anyone who directly manages the actions of others should share a common title.
- Associate or representative? It can be difficult to choose between these two titles. Usually “representatives” designates a slightly higher rank than an associate. People often view associates as a starting position. Representatives “represent” their companies and as such, usually reflect deeper company knowledge and a longer tenure with a company.
- Titles aren’t analogous among companies: Job titles vary considerably in the scope of work assigned to the title. Look beyond titles when hiring, and make sure you designate via a written job description exactly what each position and title is responsible for so that there is no confusion.
- Use titles as part of a candidate’s compensation package: Many good candidates will negotiate compensation and other perks of the job. One area where it’s easy for you to compromise without affecting salary and benefits is in their job title. Consider changing or adjusting job titles, if warranted, to attract and keep great candidates for a job.
- Avoid “title-less” organizations: There’s been a trend over the past few years of “flat” organizations. This means that the organization eschews job titles and prefers to view everyone as colleagues. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it can lead to confusion. Customers, clients, vendors and others are used to a system of titles and responsibilities and will still ask for the Director of IT, Operations, Marketing, and so on. Even if your work environment is highly collegial and collaborative, you still need job titles.
- Base titles on job descriptions: It’s helpful to begin with the job descriptions you’ve created for your company and decide on titles based on descriptions. At small businesses, employees often wear many hats, and the scope of their responsibilities is broader than at larger companies where people can specialize. Decide the appropriate category for a job title such as accounting, marketing, finance, operations, etc. Then think about the amount of responsibility someone has and what that might mean in terms of job title.
Love them or loathe them, job titles remain an important consideration for employees and employers alike. As you structure your small business, structure your title system for clarity, consistency, and accuracy. You’ll set up your organization for strong growth ahead.