Eric is a mid level manager who’s just done an MBA. A new job is in the bag, he has a title that sounds impressive, the money’s in the bank – but his career is going nowhere. Should he be worried about his growth in a time of rampant title inflation? The simple answer is yes.
Eric is just one among the thousands of Vice Presidents, Chief Twitter Officers, and Chief Happiness Officers out there, who are caught in the web of title inflation and wondering where their career is heading next.
In a time when roles at the workplace are becoming more specific and the titles are more diverse, professionals across the world are desperately searching for an answer to a crucial question – do job titles really matter, or should people focus on expanding their skill set?
The Truth Behind Title Inflation
Workplaces have changed and have been layered with multiple levels of hierarchy, but the core rules still apply – you’re either the boss or you’re not. The problem with new age job titles is that they are only useful when they clearly define the employee’s contribution to the organization. If the specificity is lost, which is the case with most companies, these job titles cease to matter as they only add to the confusion.
But why do companies do this?
The reason behind this is ridiculously simple. Companies go creative with their job titles because they know that seemingly important titles give employees an ego boost, so they often hand out job titles rather than pay raises to retain their employees and combat attrition. A 2012 report released by Resolution Foundation found that close to 60% of ‘Managers’ earn less than £400 a week in the United Kingdom, compared to 37% of managers who were in the same position before the new millennium.
It’s far easier and practical for a company to promote someone as its Chief Innovation Officer instead of hiking up his pay!
Aptly labeled as ‘Title Inflation’, this quick fix solution of promoting employees to meaningless roles within a flat corporate structure that has led to widespread confusion in hiring circles, as job applicants in some cases hardly come with the skill set that their previous job title promises.
According to Wharton’s Center For Human Resources, this trend hit a high in the 1970s when organizations couldn’t compensate their employees beyond a point, was brought down by organizational restructuring in the 80s, and has started rising again since then.
Why Job Titles Don’t Matter Anymore
Title inflation affects both employers and employees, as it gives employees a false sense of accomplishment and security, while it fools employers into choosing applicants who are not right for the role.
For instance, Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) from smaller organizations who typically move towards greener pastures to bigger companies often find out that they are grossly unqualified to handle the role, and struggle to deliver the results that are expected from them in terms of increasing market share and brand awareness!
The role of a Vice President also differs across industries, as Vice Presidents in a corporate setting often function in the President or CEO’s absence, making sure that the operations are running smoothly as per plan and ensuring that the strategic direction of the company doesn’t change in any way. Title inflation in banking is prevalent too, as anyone can be a Vice President, and people from sales positions are often promoted as Vice Presidents for no rhyme or reason.
Brad Schepp, bestselling author, editor, and consultant, stated in the year 2012 that more than 37% of companies browse through the social media profiles of their prospective candidates to get an idea of their personality and character.
Companies are also moving towards smarter hiring these days, and LinkedIn profiles carry all the information that they need on a potential hired candidate. This helps them completely understand the employee’s role in the previous organization, making rich professional experience all the more essential for securing a job.
As job roles are becoming more specific, it’s important to have the right skill set in place over fancy titles and designations because ultimately, an employee’s worth will only be judged by how efficiently he can get the job done. Companies also look for additional skills and qualities like complex problem solving, decision-making, monitoring and critical thinking skills while choosing the right candidates for the role.
In an extremely competitive job market, it’s safe to forecast that only learning on the job and constantly updating your skill set can help you stay ahead of the curve, with your career in control.
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Ramu is founder of It's Your Skills. Feels he has been fortunate to have had education in engineering and human resources and experience in non-IT and IT industries. They have helped him evolve an all round perspective on the talent space.