Nowadays when I decide to get away from my daily reading routine, following the royal family news is my escape. In the recent weeks, Prince Harry’s new job as Chief Impact Officer in a mental health firm in the US (BBC, 2021) caught my eye. According to BBC news, his roles and responsibilities are still not clear. But his position and title in the leadership team was confirmed.
To be honest, what I and many other people were looking as escape was for some quality gossip about their new life in the US. But, I have to say that Prince Harry’s new role and title got me very interested. What is a Chief Impact Officer? At C-level, are we flexible enough to include new ‘Officers” in the club? And maybe the broader question: how can we manage titles in HR?
What is a Chief Impact Officer?
Let’s begin with the first question. I googled Chief Impact Officer and it looks like a recently created title on C-level. Only 2 positions other than Prince Harry’s job appeared in my search. According to one job description in a commercial company, the successful candidate will be leading the impact, management practices and design, develop company’s portfolio and play a significant role in the development of products. In another job description at a non-profit organization, the future CImpO will provide an oversight in organization’s portfolio and manage community, partnership, staff relationships and lead innovative programs. I shared here very briefly the responsibilities.
The job responsibilities on these job ads have some common grounds as managing and developing portfolios but they differ in other aspects. I believe that having only 2 detailed job descriptions did not provide me enough insights about what a Chief Impact Officer is doing. So I continued my search, this time on LinkedIn, to see if I could understand it better. I was able find only 1 person who began her role only 3 months ago. In my opinion, this answered my second question: Since there are not many CImpOs in the market that I could find, this title was recently created and the role could be a need for C-level.
How can we manage titles in HR?
Let’s move on to my third question. What about the titles? How do the recruiters manage or create titles? I do not have a simple or direct answer to these questions.
In their article “Job Titles as Identity Badges“, Grant, Berg and Cable discuss the issue very broadly. They claimed job titles have both social and cultural meaning beside their self-expressive function. Employees often would like to merge meaningful aspects of their identities and their daily work tasks on the job titles. Therefore, the titles can mirror not only their identity at work but also their personal skills and interests as well. In their article, they also share a few examples of newly created and self-created titles such as an event organizer known as “Director of Chaos”. Yahoo! spokesperson Heidi Burgett calls herself the “Yahoo! evangelist”, and some IBM employees also have titles such as “Data Detective” and “Creative Technologist.” (Grant, Berg & Cable, 2014).
This article helps very much to understand how titles can act as a reinforcer for employers on organizations. It also proves that titles can be chosen by individuals or employers to reflect their identity in an organization beside their roles and responsibilities in their role.
Certainly, titles are prone to alter from organization to organization as well as they may change from person to person on the same role. As we have seen, Prince Harry’s new role as a Chief Impact Officer is quite new on HR literature.
What to do with this information?
In light of the research above and Harry’s example, searching for a job with such titles in mind will definitely restrict your chances. For example, if you are interested in becoming a Chief Impact Officer, apparently only 2 companies in the world are actively looking for one. However, you can list some keywords of a job description you find interesting. Then, if you combine these keywords with your skills on a search query, you will get a longer list of opportunities rather than 2 with a certain title. Another idea could be to follow companies and creating a job alert for these ones.
I am not quite sure if Prince Harry landed this job by searching for it or if the company approached him. Nevertheless, it already had an impact on me to conduct a small research about titles. Hopefully, his impact will be broader once his roles and responsibilities become clear!
Grant, A., Berg, J. & Cable, D. (2013). Job Titles as Identity Badges: How Self-Reflective Titles Can Reduce Emotional Exhaustion. Academy of Management Journal. 57. 1201-1225. 10.5465/amj.2012.0338.