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How are you handling ‘overtitling’?

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Job-title inflation has been around for a long time, but it took off during the dot-com boom, when companies handed out titles instead of cash. Now, apparently, we’ve reached the point where “overtitling” has led to inequities and overcompensation.

But beware the solution hit on by Employco, an HR consulting firm and insurance company in Illinois that decided it had to overhaul its job titles, down-titling six senior staffers.

“There was a fair amount of crying,” says the company president about one employee, and most of the affected staffers have left.

Titling is dicey because good job candidates can afford to be picky. Just make sure that whatever titles—traditional or newfangled—you confer on employees accurately reflect what they’re expected to contribute.

Over time, standardize the qualifications needed for each title. Or take something of the opposite tack and hand out very specific titles, such as “risk consultant,” that are less easily compared. Or consider a third path: doing away with job titles altogether.

That last route seems to have worked for the Richards Group, a marketing firm in Dallas. Nobody left after the switch.

But the happiest moment for one principal at the firm was when a job applicant asked: “Does this mean I can take on any project without a title holding me back?”

—Adapted from “What’s in a job title?” Scott Westcott, Inc.

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