Job Titles Can Build Pride and Improve Retention

The right job titles provide status and self-esteem and can help you reduce turnover and improve pride. People care about their job titles. Sometimes they will even choose the better title over more pay.

The right job titles provide status and self-esteem and can help you reduce turnover and improve pride.

People care about their job titles. Sometimes they will even choose the better title over more pay. A recent graduate with a desire to move up in a chosen career field may feel that acquiring a title that will look good on the resume is worth accepting a little less money. Recruiters have discovered that they receive a better response with well-chosen job titles. Administrative assistant or sales associate are boring, bureaucratic, and easy to skip over in the classifieds. Chief of client relations will attract much more attention!

The president of a computer service company once tried an experiment: He offered new hires at a remote location a choice between the title sales manager and salesperson. Although the salesperson position paid $2,000 a year more, most people took the manager title.

A bicycle storeowner asked me what he could do to keep his best employee from quitting. He could not afford to give him a big raise. I said, “Give him a small raise and then ask him what job title he would like.” It turned out the title the employee wanted was Director of Bike Operations (DBO). Problem solved. The job title changed his attitude about his job and sounded impressive to his friends too.

Director of bike operations has terrific ego appeal. And that is fine. People want to be proud of their job titles. A grocery store chain allowed the delicatessen manager to choose his title–he is now called the “Deli Lama.” We have to get over the bureaucratic concept that only certain people get certain job titles and business cards. Allow a little freedom of choice, and you will reap plenty in loyalty.

The ultimate goal is to energize people and make them feel good about their jobs. If it is a choice between losing a good employee and a job title—I would go with the job title anytime and especially because giving an employee a prestigious title is one way to recognize and reward when a raise is not affordable. Here are a few job title examples we have seen.

  • Senior vice president of great people
  • Chief talent scout
  • Director of fun
  • Director of consumer delight
  • Top dog
  • Person in charge
  • Top Employee #1

Here are a few other ideas to consider:

Invent a new job. A 12-year veteran at Charles Schwab was considering leaving the company—until his boss allowed him to invent a new job as organizational troubleshooter that drew on his technical and business skills. Now vice president in Schwab’s Electronic Brokerage group, he acknowledges that creating his own job let him “change things and get charged up about work again,” and calls it “the key to my staying.”

Encourage hallway training. A study to see how much information coworkers shared informally demonstrated that during a typical week at one company, over 70 percent of the 1,000 workers in the study shared information with fellow employees. Fifty-five percent asked co-workers for advice. This spontaneous exchange took place during the following: meetings; exchanges with customers, supervisors, and mentors; on-the-job training; site visits; cross- training; shift changes; same-level employee communication; and simply doing one’s job. The next time you see employees talking during shift changes, in the halls, or at coffee breaks, remember that you may be witnessing learning in progress.

Use “stand-ups” to reinforce company culture. The Ritz-Carlton Hotels have always made training and development a top priority. Today Ritz-Carlton practices something called “stand-ups” before each shift. All employees across the globe receive a 10- to 15-minute class on the same topic. The shift leader inspects each employee for proper uniform, nametag, and appearance. The stand-up may also include questions about one of the Ritz-Carlton’s 20 customer service principles. The stand-up concludes with announcements and a discussion of guest preferences, and then everyone is ready to begin their shift.

Chick-fil-A University. Chick-fil-A is a popular restaurant chain. Its turnover rates are some of the lowest in the food industry as the result of its commitment to training. Through its Chick-fil-A University, new store owners (called operators) benefit from a comprehensive seven-week training program. Classes for three weeks are held in a classroom in Atlanta; two weeks of training take place in the field. After a one-week reinforcement phase, operators spend five days at their restaurant working with a coach from corporate headquarters who helps them solve problems and review everything they learned during the seven-week process.

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