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The conventional wisdom in the construction industry is that job titles shouldn’t matter. Every company is different, right? A project manager at one company could easily be called a senior project manager at another company, yet perform the same job. An engineer at one company could easily be called a technical manager at another company, yet perform the same job.

However, job titles matter very much when it comes to recruiting talent. In some cases, a job title can be the final determining factor in a person’s decision to take or turn down a position. Why is this a big deal? Frankly, because they speak to the culture of recruiting and retaining top talent in today’s marketplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person will change jobs more than seven times in their career. That is a job change nearly every six years, on average. Candidates simply want the title to affirm their worth to the organization, and not feel as if they are taking a step backward in their careers.

What’s in a Name?
Think of a title as a first impression with a candidate. A title can offer a glimpse into a prospective employer’s company and may suggest how valued the candidate will feel as a member of the team. A job title is certainly not the only determining factor, but it could make a candidate less excited or more excited about positions, and this could tip the balance.

Of the following two identical positions, titled differently, which would receive the most interest: project manager or project manager, major projects? The second title is much more likely to entice candidates.

A Simple Way to Create Stronger Job Titles
Most companies (of any size) have a set hierarchy that would be extremely complicated, if not impossible, to change. However, there are creative ways in which companies can alter existing job titles without making radical, systemic changes. Enhancing titles can be one way for employers to attract quality candidates without spending any capital.

One example of a free and simple title change that can make a big difference is to add relevant acronyms to the title. With the addition of the right acronyms, a job title can succinctly summarize the position while advertising the attributes that the employer is looking for.  For example, if a company is seeking a professional engineer for a position, the title could have PE built into it. An employer who is looking for a certified project manager could add PMP to the title. Making your job titles as accurate, specific and as targeted as possible will help attract the right people to the job.

Following are a few questions business owners should ask to determine whether their job titles are getting the job done:

  • Are your job titles enhancing the marketability and relevancy of your open positions?
  • Are those titles reflective of your employees’ levels of contribution and seniority within your organization?
  • Are they consistent with those used by your competition?
The proposal is not to bloat or artificially inflate job titles, which could create unnecessary and distracting entitlement issues within an organization. However, evaluating unique and creative ways to update and enhance job titles could increase your likelihood of landing top talent.

Research Before Retitling
Do some market research to see how competitors are titling their positions before making any changes. A simple way to do this is to use LinkedIn or similar sites to compare current job titles and descriptions against theirs to see if updates or revisions should be made to be more competitive.

In addition to competitive research, ask current employees for their thoughts on their job titles. This process can have a side benefit of boosting job satisfaction, as suggested by a recent Harvard Business Review article, Creative Job Titles Can Energize Workers. The article suggests that morale goes up when employees are asked to deeply consider how their titles can better reflect their jobs’ purpose and value. Employee suggestions can help alter job titles to more accurately reflect positions and the company, which can help attract qualified talent that is more likely to fit the company culture.

Drastic changes may not be needed, but it will be well worth the time and effort needed to give job titles some attention. The competition for top talent is so great today that employers need every advantage they can get.  Don’t let the outdated notion that titles don’t matter get in the way of doing everything possible to attract the best talent for your company.

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