Role of Job Titles in Employee Motivation and Satisfaction

Two Factor Theory (Human Motivation)
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Chloe Xu
Director, Australia

Role of Job Titles in Employee Motivation and Satisfaction

Traditional purposes of job titles are standardization and benchmarking. They are sources and reflections of formality and rigidity or mechanisms of bureaucratic control. Over the past decade however, London Business School professor Dan Cable has come to view it as a useful tool for improving employees' job satisfaction and boosting recruitment.

A research reveals that "self-reflective" job titles made employees feel more validated and better recognized for their work, and experience greater "psychological safety". Job Retitling therefore can facilitate agency, creativity, and coping.

Here's a two-step methodology for job retitling:
  • REFLECT: Have employees reflect on their job's purpose (including who is served, who is affected by the quality of the work, and what value is created) and on questions of identity (including what aspects of the job that the employee does particularly well or differently from others).
  • BRAINSTORM: Employees brainstorm potential new titles, gathering ideas from other employees, and with their manager's input, decide on new ones.
Note that much of the value of above activities lies not in the actual new titles, but in the process that leads to them.

Retitling initiatives have become quite common at start-ups and at companies such as Disney or Google. Start with small units to gauge employee reactions.

Source: HBR, May 2016, Creative Job Titles can Energize Workers, Harvard Business Review USA.

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