What’s There in Designation or Job Title?

Veronica Bhatia has been working as Manager-HR with the Berries Smartphone Private Limited (Indian Unit of Berries Smartphone Inc.) since March 2010. In her role, she is heading SIX members HR Team of India. She is having dual reporting. Functionally, she is reporting to Tony Gottlieb, Vice President – HR based out of Corporate Office and Headquarters of Berries Software Inc. (BS) in New York, USA. Administratively, she is reporting to Arminder Dhillon, MD, India of BS.

Berries Smartphone Inc is having its presence in TEN countries – USA, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, India, China, Philippines, Germany, and France. The company is headed by John Richardson CEO of BS. He has been supported by FOUR Regional Vice-Presidents and THREE Functional Vice-Presidents. They are: VP – North America, VP – Latin America, VP – Asia, VP – Europe, VP – Finance & Accounts, VP – HR, VP – R & D. There is Country Head for each country designated as Managing Director or Country Manager. Country Head reports to the Vice-President in his region. Country Head is supported SIX Departmental Heads one each for Finance, HR, Sales & Marketing, Production, Projects and Customer Service. In India, these Departmental Heads are designated as General Manager, so there is GM-Finance, GM-Sales & Marketing, GM-Production, Program Manager, GM – Customer Service and Manager – HR. Together they form local leadership team. Global Leadership Team does not interfere with local structure and designation nomenclature. Functional General Managers are supported by Deputy General Managers (DGM), Assistant General Managers (AGM) and Managers.

GM – Finance and Manager-HR have dual reporting – Functionally to respective VP and administratively to Arminder Dhillon. Veronica is handling end-to-end HR (Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, Talent Development, Organization Development, Compliance, etc.). She is also managing few global HR interventions. She is having over 15 years of experience in HR. In the year 2012, after her 2nd Annual Performance Review, she requested Arminder to change her designation to Assistant General Manager – HR. She didn’t want any additional compensation or benefit. She reasoned it with a fact that employees with similar work experience are AGM’s or DGM’s and in front of them she feels junior or little. Arminder said, “Veronica, I have no issues with your request. However, I would like you to consult Tony before making any changes”.

Veronica sent an email to Tony for change of her designation from Manager to AGM. In response, Tony sent her a Skype meeting request for following day titled as, “Please Discuss”. In the meeting –

Tony: Hello Veronica. How are you?

Veronica: I am fine Tony. Thanks for asking. How about you?

Tony: I am fine too.

Tony: Veronica, I read your email several times but couldn’t understand the essence. Will you please take me through?

Veronica: Tony, I am looking for change in designation. Employees with similar experience as me are AGM’s and DGM’s in India. Sometimes, it appears difficult to communicate with them as they treat me as their junior, though I am heading the HR and also part of local leadership team. I like my role very much. There are challenges as well as lot many opportunities to grow and learn. My compensation is absolutely perfect as I am getting paid at par with other functional and department heads.

Tony: Veronica, you have such a senior role. You are an important member of Global HR Team. I don’t understand why you want to be “Assistant to General Manager”. John will neither like this nor approve this. He will get upset when he will read Assistant to General Manager (AGM) in your email signatures. If Arminder wants you to be able to sign some documents in his absence that can be taken care of but that don’t require change in your designation.

(Veronica was thinking, “Assistant to General Manager” what is that? Where it is coming from? I don’t want to be Assistant to General Manager.)

Veronica: Tony, I already have the authority to sign Appointment Letters, Bank Cheques, Bank Guarantee, Official Documents, etc. It is not about authority. It is local hierarchy and social cultural issue. In India, AGM is considered as higher in hierarchy than Manager. My compensation is already at par with existing AGM’s and DGM’s, so changing a job title should not be an issue.

(Tony was getting irritated. There was clear gap of cultural communication and understanding).

Tony: How Many AGM’s are there?

Veronica: Our MD is having FOUR GM’s. There are FIVE AGM’s and ONE DGM in Sales. TWO AGM’s in Production. And there is ONE AGM and ONE DGM in Customer Service Department.

Tony: (After a long pause). I am surprised that India have Functional Manager’s titled as General Manager. Shouldn’t General Manager is someone who oversee various functions? In this case, Arminder is General Manager because he has overall responsibility for managing both the revenue and cost elements of BS’s income statement also known as profit & loss (P&L) responsibility. Therefore, technically all of your functional GM’s are Managers. There cannot be functional GM’s. It is in contradiction to management norms. All your current manager’s reporting to GM’s are Team Leaders. You are Manager. Technically and logically, you are above AGM’s or DGM’s.

(Veronica was in shock. She didn’t know what to say.)

Tony: Although I will not ask Arminder to make changes in job titles and reporting hierarchy, however, since you’re reporting to me (I am responsible for your performance and growth), I will not approve your request for changing your job title to “Assistant to General Manager.

Veronica: In that case, should I suggest something?

Tony: Yeah. Please carry-on.

Veronica: Can we naturalize my designation? Can we make it something like – Country HR Manager or Senior HR Consultant or Senior HR Business Partner? It will free my mind from all tensions related to job title or promotions, etc. I will not ask for any promotion.

Tony: I think Senior HR Business Partner is good because that is what you are exactly doing. You are partnering with leadership team in India to ensure organizational growth and effectiveness of Human Resources of the company.

Veronica: Thanks Tony. It was an enriching conversation. Thanks a lot.

(That was end of their conversation).

Immediately, Veronica sent an email to Arminder with a copy to Tony regarding change of her job title to Senior HR Business Partner. With this email she also moved out of the rat race of hierarchal promotions in India. Now, she could only move vertically and her next targeted job was “Regional Manager HR – Asia”.

Do you think job titles or designations really matter? I don’t think so. In this case, Veronica was one among the top-15 highest paid employees (out of 350 employees in India) of Berries Smartphone, India. Her role was impacting 350 employees. She was handling global HR assignments. She was coaching leadership team in India. In this case, job title was just a job title. It is span of control, and scope and impact of role and compensation that should matter the most. I have seen employees with job title as Manager but impact of their role is nothing morning than that of a Graduate Engineer or Graduate Trainee.

What are your thoughts? What you would have done in this case? Does job title matter to you? What’s there in job title or designation?

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