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At my company, employees are always top-of-mind. That’s been especially so during the pandemic. Last March, we acted quickly to send employees home. Today 90% remain fully remote. In that environment, we especially know communication and engagement are critical.
We’ve long had a culture of fun with a focus on people. We have positions on our company culture team like “developer of fun and shenanigans”; “artisan of culture and geekery” and “curator of antics and hijinks.” There may well be organizations that believe such wild and wacky job titles are too silly or somehow unprofessional.
Amid the job market today and the realization of work not being what it used to be (and not likely to return to what it was), we conducted some research around the future of fun and whimsical job titles — and how well they work or don’t — to support employee engagement. That is, after all, a goal of human resources.
Creative titles already in use
We’re not the only company that likes to have a little fun and isn’t afraid to not take ourselves too seriously. Here are some of the creative titles we were able to find:
- “Director of first impressions” is another title that, while a bit out of the ordinary, is not really that rare. A search reveals about 10,000 results for that title — a title that is generally used in place of the more traditional Director of Customer Service.
- “Number ninja” is another playful title used in place of the much more sober titles like “director of accounting” or “director of finance”. It’s also used by those in more tactical roles; anyone who works with spreadsheets could logically be called a number ninja.
- Call centers get a little whimsical sometimes when naming those in leadership positions—”chief chatting officer” or “chief of chat” were two titles we found clever.
- “Director of storytelling” is a growing and not uncommon title we found among marketing and PR agencies. When performed at its finest, marketing is, after all, about telling compelling stories that resonate with potential customers. Unlike the more popular chief happiness officer, we found 449 examples for this particular title.
- “King of the Nerds” — among the funniest titles tied to a position of respect among like-minded peers. We know it applies not just to IT positions but to artificial intelligence/machine learning and robotics mavens, data scientists and experts in big data analytics.
- “Wizards” of various types seem to be in vogue, no small thanks to Harry Potter. From “wizard of want” (another marketing-related title), to “social media wizard,” “visual wizard,” “creative wizard” and so forth.
- “Chief inspiration officer”, while sounding a bit disingenuous, like “chief ideation officer” or “chief innovation officer,” is a title that could apply to any one of the many more traditional C-suite titles. Wouldn’t we all want to be responsible for generating inspiration, regardless of our position?
These are just some of the more creative titles we discovered. Maybe they are the harbinger of what is more likely to emerge in the not-too-formal, laid-back casual anti-dress code future as we all work to navigate this new normal.
For organizations thinking about adopting wild and wacky job titles, here are some pros and cons to keep in mind.
An obvious pro to the use of outlier job titles is that it conveys a sense of fun, suggesting an employee-focused culture and one that sheds traditional norms of corporate etiquette. These types of titles can help promote a company’s creative personality, conveying a bias towards humor and innovative forward-thinking as part of the overall company culture.
Clever titles can attract attention in a crowded industry and offer a low-cost way to stand out among competitors.
The use of such titles can also be a good way to attract people who also consider themselves to be unconventional or those who might prefer a less rigid culture, holding less of a “stiff upper lip” unconstrained by traditional corporate modes of behavior.
Perhaps the greatest potential negative impact could be how it negates an organization’s brand or image. However, that concern is a bit illogical as those companies likely to use wild and wacky job titles likely desire an image that channels the company culture.
A more practical consideration is the impact on benchmarking related to compensation or salary data. It may be challenging to find good benchmark data, for instance, for ninja warriors. That said, it is certainly possible for organizations to maintain documentation indicating the more commonly used titles for specific positions as an aid in conducting this type of benchmarking.
Wacky titles may turn off certain employees or make it hard for them to readily identify the types of positions they may be qualified for. As with brand impact, though, the types of people who would likely be turned off probably don’t represent the type of employee that would make a good culture fit.
Finally, there could be some potential concerns related to the use of exclusionary language or disparate impact. If you choose a wacky title, make sure it will work for any employee. For instance, does the word “wizard” imply that only males should apply?
All joking aside, it helps to think seriously about the role clever job titles might play in your organization and how to use them internally and externally to promote your unique culture.