It used to be that job titles simply indicated an individual’s role and place
within their organisation. The standard practices around titling helped others
quickly estimate a person’s professional capabilities and pay level. Nowadays
however, job titles have gained a significance that extends beyond mere role
We can see this trend growing through the increasing number of people
inventing and using innovative labels to describe their work. Many of these can
be especially creative and eye-catching in social media networks and other
professional platforms. Some people today use their job title as a ‘brand’,
thereby a tool to help improve their chances of securing great opportunities in
today’s vibrant job market. But for most employees, simply being able to create
their own job title fulfils a long-standing need to better affirm their
The uniform conventions with job titling do help to easily identify a
person’s occupation, but these also run the risk of being too standardised, thus
becoming vague and impersonal. Their hierarchical structure do help to clearly
establish a person’s authority and scope of responsibilities, but the variance
can be limiting especially in very large organisations. Some studies have found
that the lack of appropriate titles for lower positions can affect employees’
sense of purpose and belonging in a company, and thus also their level of
engagement and job satisfaction.1 Moreover, much of the standards around titling
are becoming irrelevant and outdated in today’s ever-evolving digitalised
workplaces, where it is more and more challenging to explain jobs in a nutshell.
As technology assists businesses in their evolution, it is also rewriting
existing jobs and creating new ones. More notably, digitalisation has changed
how work gets done. Work is increasingly fragmented and democratised, and not
necessarily completed by specific people doing specific jobs. Rather, much of
today’s work has to leverage an agile ecosystem of skills – inside and outside
of the organisation. Skills are the currency of the future of work. In this
sense, the activity of personalising job titles needs to be flexible and able to
evolve with the changing tide.
Figure 1. Evolution of some job titles in the last 5-10 years3
The digital mind-set has helped to rewrite cultural perceptions around titles
as well. In Asia Pacific, some cultures even link a person’s job title – or lack
thereof – with their accomplishments and social standing. Personalising one’s
own title challenges this status quo. It asserts the view that what a person
actually does or has achieved, trumps traditional expectations and social norms.
This includes questioning how an individual is made deserving of senior titles
such as ‘manager’, ‘director’ and ‘chief’.
Figure 2. Examples of emerging roles in the future of work4
Organisations that have allowed employees some control over their titles –
granted with certain guidelines for clarity, consistency and fairness – are
gaining a visible upturn on productivity and engagement, as well as decreased
stress levels and burnout.2 Organisations need to recognise that job titles are
now an important piece of the employee experience.
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Sambhav Rakyan is the Data Services Practice Leader in Asia Pacific. To connect with Sam, please email