Future workforce | The Evolution of Job Titles in HR

The Evolution of Job Titles in HR
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I was recently approached on LinkedIn by an Evangelist. I suspiciously looked at their profile and was somewhat surprised to see that it wasn’t of a religious denomination, but an Evangelist for People & Culture. 

In effect, he was an Evangelist for the corporate HR world. In my twenty year recruitment career this was not something I’d come across before, but it made me smile and wonder about the culture of that business.

It also made me pay attention to the fact that there has been a real evolution of job titles in recent years. Language constantly evolves, so why shouldn’t it do so when it comes to the HR industry, and when did HR become a dirty word? In some circles it now receives the same negative reaction that Personnel did 10-15 years ago. The language used for job titles can be indicative of how people/talent/employees/colleagues are viewed by a business, but job titles can also be confusing to some, even when used in the more traditional sense. 

Last month I had a conversation with an HR professional from the US who didn’t understand where she should be pitching herself. There was real confusion about the interchangeability of Heads of HR, Senior HR Business Partners and HR Directors.  I review CVs and job descriptions all day long and I sometimes get it wrong too. I recently met an HR Business Partner whose salary was £175,000 but on paper I thought he was going to be on £100,000.  Given this, what hope is there for job seekers and the success of adverts?! 

The rise in Chief People Officers, People Experience Directors and People & Culture Directors is noticeable. A colleague within Odgers Berndtson recently analysed the job titles at Group HR level within the FTSE and discovered that 25% of the FTSE100 and 38% of the FTSE250 now used the title CPO. In my eyes this is nothing but a positive and can be indicative of how the function is viewed internally. It is vital that HR has a seat at the table and people should be seen as a business’ most valuable asset, not just a resource.  

I recently met the Chief People Officer of Nuffield Health, Sharon Bridgland-Gough; her foresight regarding the employee experience impressed me greatly, so I asked her view on the topic of job titles:

“If we are all humans to be fulfilled and not capital to be deployed then why do we still label what we do as Human Resources? Isn’t the title too heavily linked with Human Capital Management? Does this not hinder our credibility in being able to shift our conversations from capital management to engagement and fulfilment at work?  None of us leave our emotions at home when we come to work so why do we label ourselves as if we do?”

The link between HR, marketing and communication is stronger than ever; a focus on culture and employee experience can be the main USP of companies. There is little that sets apart one job from another except the culture of the company and how they treat their people. Most of my clients want to stand out from their competitors and want to be different – having a Chief Happiness Officer definitely does that!

Jane Firth is a Consultant in the HR Practice at Berwick Partners, specialising in recruiting senior management and leadership roles across all functions within HR.

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