Google “weirdest new positions at companies” and you will find titles like Conversation Architect, Digital Overlord, Dream Alchemist, and Retail Jedi.
At first, these titles can seem like a clever device used by traditional companies to describe common positions with a more creative flair in an attempt to rebrand themselves amongst Millennials as innovative and progressive. But are they really helping company culture? Are they even the desired job titles of the employees? Or are they just simply a gimmick to grab everyone’s attention on social media?
According to Business Insider, “The Wall Street Journal’s work-culture reporter Te-Ping Chen recently reported that more and more companies are adding some pizzazz to their job titles in a move designed to attract new applicants and freshen a staid corporate image.”
It lends itself to the old Shakespearean question, is “a rose by any other name” still a rose? After all, a Conversation Architect is a Digital Marketing Manager and a Dream Alchemist is another way of saying the Head of Creative.
But as some companies take it a step further—not just sprucing up a hackneyed-sounding job but creating actual positions from these offbeat titles, we have to wonder if they’re on to something?
One such example comes from Heathrow Airport and it’s recent announcement that it has hired Reggie Yates as their first-ever “Culture Curator.” Yates, a popular and well-liked figure in British Pop Culture, will host a new docu-series, Created in the UK, in an effort to highlight Britain’s diverse creative communities. Yates’ will travel around Britain finding emergent talent, interviewing new artists, and spotlighting local communities.
What does Heathrow Airport stand to gain from this?
Heathrow Airport has long since proven itself as a world-class airport but typically not as a creative hub. However, in hiring a “Culture Curator” we now find Heathrow at the center of this creative conversation, expanding its presence as a creative focal point in the world.
And as we’ve seen, Heathrow is just one of many companies capitalizing on this trend. Want to be Chief of Adventure or Chief of Golf? Both of those titles exist at West Monroe Partners. According to SHRM.com, the Chiefs Program “…is cited in Terms of Engagement: New Ways of Leading and Changing Organizations (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010) as an example of how to unleash talent and showcase leadership skills.”
According to Susan Stelter, Chief People Officer at West Monroe Partners, “We know when we tie into people’s passions, [we build a] stronger culture and build relationships and feel supportive at work.” Stelter also goes on to say that “some of our [their] highest- performing leaders held some sort of position as a chief early in their career.”
Link this to the research that shows that job title, or a change in job title, can affect how you feel about your position and it seems that a rose by any other name is, in fact, not a rose. Title it something different and it becomes something different.
A 2014 study reported that “85% of employees of the Midwest chapter of the Make-A- Wish Foundation who received a new job title said they benefitted emotionally from the change.”
If this is true, then we have to consider that aforementioned titles like Retail Ninja and Digital Overlord aren’t just creative ways of titling a job title but a real and effective way to boost morale and potentially build leadership.