The current high rate of consumer inflation may be an issue on most people’s minds right now, but another form of inflation — title inflation — is also making itself felt in the workplace, Shawn Cole, president and co-founder of national executive search firm Cowen Partners, told HR Dive.
It’s nearly impossible to roll back a title on someone without them quitting.Shawn Cole
President and co-founder, Cowen Partners Executive Search
Cole started observing the trend around 2018 with bootstrapped startups, he said. “They weren’t necessarily able to compensate competitively, but they were handing out inflated titles. So that could be an exaggerated VP or even a C-suite title.” Cole even saw one startup use “director of first impressions” as the title for an office receptionist role. “[Startups] really kicked it all off for the rest of us,” he said.
Finally, HR pros should devote significant energy to finding candidates who believe in and align themselves with the company’s goals and values, Cole said. “If you have a candidate that is only interested in joining your company for title and money, there will be another opportunity that comes to them, you know, a year from now with more money and a cooler title, and you’re just gonna lose that person,” he continued. “So you want them bought in on a shared value system — not the money and title.”
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