Job titles are used to reflect the functional role and indicate where a job fits in an organizational hierarchy. In this regard, job titles convey a sense of equity to employees within and outside the organization. The intent is to have organizational jobs titles make sense as compared to the titles that exist on job boards or at other companies.

Many organizations struggle to manage consistent job titles across the organization because they are often developed by the manager. Other challenges include ensuring that titles are not inflated, too specific, and too long. The title should reflect the job and not the incumbent(s) in the job. Department names and part-time and full-time status sneak into titles too! One of the more egregious examples is that the FLSA status is different on the same job title, e.g., Analyst – Non-Exempt and Analyst – Exempt.

Consider these 10 best practices when developing and/or reorganizing job titles in your organization.

  1. Utilize career categories to create the titling nomenclature.
    • These categories typically consist of professional individual contributors, management, and support individual contributors.
    • For example, if specialist is used for professional individual contributors, it is not to be used in a support individual contributor title. Otherwise, the employees may consider themselves to be at the same organizational level and may assume pay is very similar.
  1. Identify level of jobs within each category and assign consistent leveling titles, for example:
    • Management: Manager, Director, Senior Director, Vice President
    • Individual Contributors: Associate Financial Analyst (entry), Financial Analyst (experienced), Senior Financial Analyst (career level)

Carefully consider the appropriateness of using numbers in the title – only if all levels are in constant use and there is the intention to promote to the highest-level number, for example:

  • Financial Analyst I, Financial Analyst II, Financial Analyst III


  1. Often both people and program managers have a job title of manager. To differentiate, change the order of where manager appears in the job title.
    • People Manager in Finance = Manager, Finance
    • Program Manager in Marketing = Marketing Manager


    1. Be consistent with designating levels, spelling, and abbreviations. Whether you choose to spell out or abbreviate a word, or use roman numerals or numbers, follow the same rules for all titling. Remember that systems truncate space available to view titles, so abbreviations are not a bad idea.
      • Sr Marketing Specialist OR Senior Marketing Specialist
      • Sr Financial Analyst  OR Senior Financial Analyst


    1. Make sure the functional title describes the role. An Engineering Manager title may imply the role that manages engineers, but we know of one that does not require an engineering background or training and instead manages plant facilities through a third party.


    1. Create career ladders to organize your jobs and be available for managers and employees as a tool to identify growth opportunities available within and outside of a functional area. This will support your attraction and retention strategies and create a competitive advantage.


    1. Have a dedicated HR role responsible for creating and maintaining consistency of roles, titles, and alignment with the salary structure. Job architecture (sometimes called job structure, job catalogue, or leveling) refers to the infrastructure or hierarchy of jobs within an organization.


    1. Maintain a job list, table, or library, with the following information by job, those both active with incumbents and vacant:
      • Job Title
      • Job Code – similar to an employee I.D., important to assign each unique title a code so to eliminate confusion and keep a history
      • Job Family – major functional area, e.g., Finance
      • Job Category – manager, professional individual contributor, technical individual contributor, sales, support individual contributor
      • Job Level – 1 = entry level individual contributor or first level manager
      • Job Grade – the number or letter indicating the salary range assigned to it
      • FLSA (US) – exempt or non-exempt


      1. Limit the number of words and characters (see #4) in the job description title to reduce confusion and length in a list or system
        • Sr AR Assoc instead of Senior Accounts Receivable Customer Service Associate
      1. Consider the need and benefit of broader titles to help employees identify similar jobs across the organization, to support cross training or anticipate the addition and subtraction of scope to meet business needs
        • Packer, Laborer and Operator = Production Associate
        • Total Rewards Director and Talent Acquisition Director = HR Director
      Susan brings over 25 years in consulting and leadership positions in compensation and human resources to her clients. Susan advises boards of directors, executives and leaders in sales, human resources and compensation functions on the strategic application of total reward programs. She works with a broad range of public, private and non-profit clients in technology, industrial, and service sectors throughout the country in the assessment, design and implementation of sales, executive and employee compensation programs.

      Rhonda Farrington has over 25 years of human resources experience in both consulting and human resource management roles working with small and mid-sized organizations. She has an extensive background in designing market-driven salary structures, performance-based incentive and sales compensation plans, and executive and director total compensation.