Today’s job titles reflect a shifting view of the office and how we think about work.
The title HR manager is so 1990s. Human resources is evolving to encompass something much larger, and much more thoughtful than in years past. Two decades ago, workers were exactly what the title described: resources. Employees were a means to an end, stuffed into cubicles with comfort, well-being and mindset being the last concern to employers.
Fast-forward to today, and companies are hiring a new generation of employee-focused leaders who consider every facet of what it feels like to go to work. What makes employees happy? What drives people to work faster, better, smarter? They study psychology and design. They delve into the sensory experience of an office. They analyze employees to ensure they’re healthy and thriving.
Here are the latest titles in HR that reflect those changes.
Director of Workplace and Employee Experience
Herculean Tasks: Attunes the workplace to enhance the five senses for employees, guests, contractors and customers. That includes managing the office smell, the music people hear, the taste of the coffee, the candy and the food served in the cafe, and finally, the texture inside the space, whether it’s art on the walls or a rug on the floor.
Super Power: “I’ve developed a great skill of eavesdropping. Whether it’s a casual comment that the room is too hot or we ran out of a popular drink,” says Francis Aquino, who holds the title for Honey, an L.A. software company.
Director of Culture
Big job: If employees represent a company’s greatest asset, then culture becomes the glue that keeps them there and makes them productive, creative and energized. These folks lead this charge, creating and driving strategies and programs to boost engagement, productivity and organizational effectiveness.
A new kind of HR mindset: Must be passionate about employee experiences. They must live and breathe adaptability, project management and collaboration.
What they do: As behavioral design becomes more important to drive collaboration, wellness and creativity in the office, behavioral scientists take on a prominent role. With online surveys and quantitative and qualitative research, they analyze how a workplace affects employees— from understanding how illness spreads in an open office to how to best block sound (answer: furniture and modular pieces like the office phone booth).
Why they’re in demand: “Companies may not know that they need behavioral scientists but they might recognize the problems we can help with – understanding and changing people’s behavior,” says Anja Jamrozik, who holds the title for Breather, a New York-based flexible office space provider.
Head of Employer Branding
Day-to-day Rule: Rather than just building the brand for customers, these people are charged with building “internal talent brands” that make their companies different than any other employer. That could be a killer mentor program, better on-boarding program, and “targeted content campaigns”— all for employees.
Indispensable traits: Employer branding is a hot topic these days. As career review sites, social media and tech drive recruitment, a strong employer brand is key. Without it, you’ll miss out on the best hires.
Their latest iteration: Forget studying communities in distant parts of the world. These cultural anthropologists increasingly turn their observation skills on employees. They quietly watch what’s being said and how people behave inside offices, retail stores and homes. And through social and behavior psychology and observation, they’re uncovering what big data cannot. They expose the hidden reasons why people do what they do, why customers aren’t buying and the real reasons employees may be quitting.
What makes a good one: “It’s being there with people in the most natural way. Seeing what’s important and what’s annoying,” says Christian Madsbjerg, CEO of ReD Associates, a social science consulting firm that has observed and advised brands like Adidas, Legos and Chanel.
VP of Organizational Development
Their mission: Fast growth is tricky to manage. It’s no longer falling on the shoulders of a CEO. A VP of organizational development can manage structures as a company shifts and expands. If you go from 30 to 100 to 200 people, you need someone who can specialize in developing the organizational structure that fits.
Why they’re in demand: Growth is about much more than having enough employees to fulfill expanding work loads. As companies grow — and particularly when they grow rapidly — dynamics between employees shift. Smart allocation of space becomes more complicated — how to increasingly squeeze people together without harming morale and productivity? Technology demands increase. People who are adept at managing the myriad ways in which fast growth impacts organizational health are in short supply.
The Evolution Continues
As the modern workplace grows increasingly complex, with offices now embracing things like hot desking, widespread video-conferencing, coworking satellite offices and myriad rooms for different activities — phone calls, small meetings, quiet work, convivial collaboration — job titles are rapidly evolving. The standard suite of titles, which dominated white-collar work for generations, no longer capture the range of work being performed by different employees. Technology and the rise of agile workplaces — both of which are intertwined — are the engines behind the recent dramatic acceleration of workplace evolution.