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March 19, 2014

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Does your Job title match your Job?

Paul Bizzell, operations director, Ryder Marsh


On the face of it, this might sound like a no-brainer with an obvious answer: “yes, of course”.  So, a second question — should it? Or rather: should the job be thought of differently and hence the title need to be adjusted?

Here’s why — Language is a key part of culture so how an organisation chooses to label particular functions can give us a significant clue to the culture of an organisation.  Similarly how a company goes about things is another clue.  Also we know that in terms of Safety Culture that there is a clear inverse correlation between the level of development and incident rate.  All the scales used to categorise development can be mapped onto three broad categories: 

a) Safety ‘gets done to the Employees’ e.g. , “Ooh-er, here’s the safety person. What are they going to make us do now?

b) Safety ‘gets done for everyone by the safety team’, typically characterised by opinions or comments to new starters like “Don’t worry too much about safety, we’ve got a couple good folks, Fred and Jo, and they’ll see we’re OK.”

c) ‘Safety is genuinely done by everyone suggesting improvements to the Safe system of working, the Safety team help people to do their job safely.  On seeing a Safety person approaching the immediate thought is “Oh good here’s the safety expert coming to help with that issue I asked about.”

Now how would you describe those?  My suggestion for accurate job titles would be:

a)    ‘Safety Officer’, which could be advertised as “A Job for life enforcing the rules”;

b)    ‘Safety Manager’, – “The successful applicant will be responsible for all aspects of safety”; and finally

c)     ‘Safety Consultant’, “We’re seeking an experienced individual to help line management fulfil their Safety responsibilities and the company develop and improve it’s Safety Culture”. 

If those three jobs were advertised alongside each other I’m fairly sure which you’d prefer, but take a moment to reflect on which descriptions best fit your organisation and whether the titles really match reality.

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