In a previous article, 5 Unique HR titles for 2016, I explored what different titles might mean for employees, companies, and Human Resources. As this industry evolves, job titles help shape what it means to be in HR. We considered People Operations Manager, VP of People, Chief Happiness Officer, Vibe Manager, and Director of Engagement as titles to look for in 2016.
In the past month, I met with five different HR team members with unique titles to hear their stories. What better way to understand the evolution of the industry than to speak with people who work in it on a day-to-day basis? All of the interviewees shared a common thread: they had all started at their company with “traditional” titles like Office Assistant or Office Manager and over time adopted their more creative titles.
While reaching out to people for this story, I figured we’d run into some cultural similarities among the companies since they're all part of the New Tech family. Nearly all have values statements listed on their websites (check out Udemy’s as an example), and if they’re not up yet, they’re in the works. The companies represented in the interview group are Prezi, Udemy, Grasshopper, Good Apple Digital, and VHX.
Meet our ambassadors in the image below, and see how they describe their company’s culture.
How the title fits the role
Overall, everyone was satisfied by how their title reflects what they do on a day-to-day basis. Hanavan says, “Whenever I would tell people I'm the Mood Coordinator, people were like, ‘What is it that you do? That's amazing! I want to know more!’ I thought, ‘Wow, this is a great conversation starter.’”
Similarly, Fitzgerald felt that the title of Chief Happiness Officer helped her avoid any “negative connotations” that went along with HR Manager. Expanding on that point, Fitzgerald says, “I definitely do think that the negative HR vibe comes from larger corporations. [HR tends to be] in their own section not really integrated with the team. It’s almost like this scary management role versus being a part of the team.” Fitzgerald sees her role (and the future of HR) as being a resource for everyone in the office and an integrated part of the team.
Caron was able to choose her own title at VHX after applying and working as the Executive Assistant/Office Manager for a year. She says this process was a lesson in self-worth. Caron wanted a job title that she could “be proud of, that made sense and allowed me room for career growth...” People Operations Manager was what she settled on because, “it commands a certain level of respect, provides a clear career path to become Director or Head figure in the future and it encompasses all things People and benefits…”
Kadesch was scouted for her role as Culture Evangelist at Grasshopper after the hiring manager noticed the creativity she brought to the workplace at Blackbaud. Their initial conversation revolved around the snowcone machine that Kadesch had procured for an all-hands meeting because “why not?” Her initial title of Office Manager changed to reflect her “true colors” in 2015 after she was given the ability to choose her own title. However, the title wasn’t entirely unique. “We had someone in Grasshopper’s infancy hold the title of Culture Evangelist, but that had been long in the past and I thought it was important to bring back,” says Kadesch.
All interviewees agreed that guiding and shaping the employee experience at work was a vital part of their role and the role of Human Resources. These titles reflect how HR professionals are a vital part of a company’s overall team and moves away from the preconceived notion that HR operates behind closed doors.
As our jobs and careers are a journey, I asked each person what they might change their title to next. Hanavan looked at the opportunity for career advancement, looking at “Director of Mood” or “Employee Experience Manager” as the next step in her role.
JD Scalzo, Experience Coordinator at Udemy, said that his biggest hurdle in the role so far has been communicating to the company what he’s doing and on what team, through his job title. He says, “I think Experience Coordinator really encapsulates a lot but I would want to add something to do with people and hospitality. My focus is on the people, [those] coming into the office as guests or the people that work here.”
Finding parallels (and some comedy) between the care of animals and that of employees, People Operations Manager, Melissa Caron, jokingly said she’d consider changing her title to “Zookeeper.” The similarities can be seen in the Zookeeper job description she cited which described the role as, “professionals who are responsible for maintaining the health of their charges as well as ensuring proper maintenance of their habitat.” Not too far off from maintaining employee engagement and creating a healthy working environment.
As the Chief Happiness Officer at Good Apple Digital, Fitzgerald felt that her current title encompassed her role but she would want to incorporate some aspect of operations into the mix. Overall, she says, “I love my title.” Now that’s employee engagement.