Disney was one of the first companies to create unique job titles. In 1957, when the company was hiring a new batch of engineers to design its theme parks, it came up with the job title imagineer.
Now more than 50 years later, companies like Buffer, Apple, Taco Bell and Help Scout have coined new job titles like "warrior," "champion," "ninja" and "heroes." Why?
Desirable positions (and job titles) draw top talent but that's not the case for less attractive jobs. So smart companies in need of top talent for less sought-after positions (like those in customer service) are using novel titles to distance these roles from negative associations and stigmas.
This shift may be helping companies secure a higher number of qualified candidates. Buffer had 783 people apply in one month for its happiness hero and weekend warrior positions (both customer-service roles). The perks of working for Buffer and its company culture may have had something to do with the high-response rate.
Unique job titles can also play a role in bringing unconventional culture front and center. This might help companies find the right people -- and help the right people find them.
A person who applies for a role as a weekend warrior already has an inkling that this company has a work environment that's unconventional. The job title immediately introduces a potential employee to the company’s tone and values.
People often feel defined by a job title, so positive-sounding customized titles might create happier, prouder employees.
As an article in the Academy of Management Journal, "Job Titles as Identity Badges," explained, “To the extent that job titles enable employees to self-express, they may help employees channel their attention and energy more effectively, have higher-quality interactions with others, and better utilize their unique capabilities.”
A unique employee title might help people feel a closer connection to their job and improve their performance.
“There is a need, for the younger generation, for self-expression," human resources expert and author Susan Heathfield told The Boston Globe, citing a "desire for uniqueness, a desire to seem more important than the job might actually be."
She added, "Generation Y, or our millennials, were groomed by families to have an overly inflated emphasis on their own self-worth. You are going to see this increasingly reflected in job titles."
"They are not going to have a title like ‘receptionist’ and feel rewarded,” Heathfield added.
Unique and meaningful job titles may be a way for companies to connect with the growing number of young people entering the workforce. So businesses might be smart to offer job titles that employees will be proud of -- especially for positions that don’t traditionally carry a heavy weight of pride.
Subtle shifts in language can affect mind-sets. The very words used affect what people experience, so changing the manner of referring to a job may influence the way it's perceived.
Well-known motivational speaker and life coach Tony Robbins is a proponent of this way of thinking: “The words that we attach to our experience become our experience.”
Since people's choice of words can help shape their experiences, the adoption of positively framed, exciting job titles could be a good way to encourage employees to see their jobs in a more appealing and rewarding light.
There may be a downside to companies' adopting unusual job titles, though. If the titles aren't carefully crafted, this could lead to confusion about job hierarchies, responsibilities and long-term goals. Job titles like "happiness hero," for example, are not optimized for online job searches. And potential candidates may find unique job titles tacky, trendy or unappealing.
Changing the titles of company positions isn't an immediate fix for finding the right talent or motivating employees to do their best work.
Unique job titles should show specific purpose, value and meaning if they are expected to make any impact.
Disney didn’t frivolously come up with the term imagineer. The company combined engineer and imagination to highlight the two most important elements of the position.
If a company decides to create new job titles, this should not be done to follow a fad but rather if it better positions employee expectations.