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Title Standardization

We are facing a dilemma where everyone needs to have “Mgr” in their title…i.e. title inflation. I was wondering what is going on in the market in regards to titles and their exempt v. nonexempt connotation. What do the following titles mean in your organizations: Administrator, Coordinator, Specialist, Agent, Advocate, Assistant. And other ideas. Thank you.

Job title inflation has been an issue for some time. Basically, it comes down to employees wanting to feel valued and important. So, employers flatter their low- and middle-tier employees by giving them senior sounding titles. This practice is beneficial during difficult financial times when employers can’t afford to increase pay. Instead, they’ll change an employee’s job title to something more important sounding to show their appreciation.

Oddly enough, it often works. I personally don’t advise it but many HR professionals do. An employee’s job title should be logical and accurately reflect their duties not be used as a means for flattery or non-monetary compensation.

An employee’s job title has no effect on their classification under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, employees are classified as either non-exempt or exempt.

Non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked and are subject to overtime and minimum wage requirements prescribed by the FLSA. Most employees are considered non-exempt.

Conversely, exempt employees receive a fixed predetermined salary for any week during which work is performed regardless of the quantity or quality of such work. Exempt employees are excluded from overtime pay provisions.

To be exempt, an employee must pass all three “tests”, salary level, salary basis, and duties, as outlined by the FLSA.

The salary level test: Employees who are paid less than $455 per week (FYI: the DOL has proposed to increase this to $970 per week this year) are non-exempt.

The salary basis test: An exempt employee must receive a regular, predetermined amount of compensation each pay period on a weekly, or less frequent, basis.

The duties test: An employee who meets the salary level and salary basis tests is exempt only if he/she also performs exempt job duties. There are three typical categories of exempt job duties titled executive, professional, and administrative.

Remember, the actual tasks of the job are to be evaluated, not the job title. So, an employee can be titled the Director of People Management or Chief Customer Specialist and still not meet the criteria for exempt status.

As for the titles you list, Administrator is the only true management position. An Administrator basically manages the entire organizational operations of a business. The others are commonly used middle-tier job titles. A Coordinator is a general title used in just about every department to identify a person who facilitates or brings people or things together. A Specialist refers to someone whose responsibilities focus on a specific duty or subject. Agents and Advocates usually act on the behalf of others. Lastly, an Assistant is generally one who provides administrative support to either an individual in a senior position or to a group of employees.

When determining job titles its best to consider the actual duties and responsibilities of the position not what title will make the current employee in the position happy. It’s also best practice to use similar job titles throughout the company for similar positions.  For example, three employees who perform the exact same job duties shouldn’t have three different titles.

Consider the reasoning behind your employees needing more important sounding titles. Do they feel valued and appreciated? Are they satisfied in their jobs? What else can you do to provide for their needs without resorting to flashy job titles?


This entry was posted on Saturday, April 30th, 2016 at 8:54 pm and is filed under
Human Resources Management, Labor Laws.
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