Companies are desperate to attract millennials — and they're rebranding job titles as 'ninjas,' 'rock stars,' and 'evangelists' to do it

Mikhail Mokrushin/Strelka Institute/Flickr‘Wait, did you say you’re a ‘data ninja’?’
  • “Rock star” and “ninja” are becoming increasingly typical job titles.
  • Companies across America are bidding farewell to terms like “associate” and introducing ones like “evangelist” as a way of attracting younger employees.
  • Research suggests that a new job title can reframe how you think of your role in a company.

Would you be more likely to apply for a job as a “marketing brand manager,” or a “brand evangelist“?

Companies seem to think most folks would prefer the latter title. The Wall Street Journal’s work-culture reporter Te-Ping Chen recently reported that more and more companies are adding some pizzazz to their job titles in a move designed to attract new applicants and freshen a staid corporate image.

These sort of zesty job titles are nothing new, particularly in the tech world, where roles like chief inspiration officer or chief rock star have been around for a decade.

But the practice seems to have trickled down to, for example, OneAmerica, a financial-services firm based in Indianapolis, which just changed its humdrum role of “data analyst” to “data wrangler.”

Todd Shock, the vice president of data and analytics at OneAmerica, told The Journal that the change demonstrated to young applicants that the firm is risk-taking and innovative rather than “old and crotchety.”

“If I can put ‘data wrangler’ on a guy’s business card, and that’s what gets him here and excited, why not?” he said.


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Workplace research indicates that your job title plays an important role in how you feel about your work.

In a 2014 study led by a Wharton professor, researchers found that 85% of employees of the Midwest chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation who received a new job title said they benefitted emotionally from the change.

The researchers wrote, according to Fast Company:

“Our findings highlight a novel, practical process that enables employees to play an active role in reducing their own emotional exhaustion … When leaders encourage employees to reflect on – and then reflect out – their unique value through personalised titles, employees are able to express their identities in ways that contribute to a sense of affirmation and psychological safety, reducing emotional exhaustion.”

In other words, a change in your job title can affect how you feel in your daily role.

The Journal reported that a shoeshine chain in Philadelphia now calls workers “shine artists.” According to the Wharton research, that could help boost self-image as employees see their work as interactive and creative rather than as bland labour.



Read the Wall Street Journal article »

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