Customer Success Manager, Chief Purpose Officer, Head of Inspiration: AI looks set to cull the jobs we may not really need – Stephen Jardine

If your job title is deliberately vague, you may need to worry about the march of AI

Focussing on the cooking skills of one of the quarter finalists on MasterChef was difficult after their caption appeared on screen. “Ecrin is a Customer Success Manager from London.” Pardon?

Even in the word-salad world of modern HR, this is a new sort of strange which begs so many questions. What represents success and, to be balanced, is there a Customer Failure Manager? Although to be fair, I think all of them have already been snapped up by Virgin Broadband.

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I suspect Ecrin simply works in customer service where managers talk about empowering the public and measuring successful outcomes while leaving us hanging on the phone for 35 minutes listening to a Poundshop version of Greensleeves.

The Plain English Roadshow's gobbledygook monster is run out of town (Picture: Justin Lloyd)The Plain English Roadshow's gobbledygook monster is run out of town (Picture: Justin Lloyd)
The Plain English Roadshow's gobbledygook monster is run out of town (Picture: Justin Lloyd)

Job-sniffing hellscape

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All this is part of a growing trend to hyper-inflate job titles that has been spotted by the Plain English Campaign. "Once upon a time, job titles used to tell us what people did for a living. They were bakers or doctors or lawyers or plumbers. But in recent years, it seems we don't want people to know what we do,” said a spokesperson (or a fact-based information advocate as they are probably known nowadays).

The fulcrum for much of this is the job-sniffing hellscape that is LinkedIn which calls itself “a business and employment-focussed social media platform” but is really just a place where people you try to avoid get to bother you. Job titles featured recently include Chief Purpose Officer, Brand Evangelist and Head of Inspiration. I have no idea what any of the people do and I suspect, neither have they.

All this nonsense started in the new tech companies who were far too cool to have old-fashioned jobs. Just as they favour think-pods over traditional desks so they reject the job descriptions of old in favour of titles that sounds more modern and aspirational. Cynics might also suggest giving someone a title so much more exciting than the reality of their employment is just a good substitute for actually paying them properly.

This fashion for inflating jobs is now spilling over into the established workplace. So manicurists are now nail technicians, lollipop ladies are school crossing patrol officers and people who make overpriced coffee are baristas.

Two-tier workplace

It’s like a crazy game of employment Top Trumps where we are searching for the most overreaching title of them all. We know the ingredients – make it vague, make it long and add in Vice-President to ensure it sounds as grand and impressive as possible. And if anyone understands it, then start again because comprehension is not important.

At this rate we are going to end up with a two-tier workplace. On one side will be the people who do jobs we understand from the title, think chefs, doctors, teachers, bricklayers, police officers and drivers. Then on the other side will be people with jobs that sounds like a comprehension test from some particularly difficult English exam.

Of course, artificial intelligence will put a stop to all this. If someone’s job is not instantly comprehensible from their title then that is probably a role that is ripe to be replaced by AI. That’s bad news for Chief Purpose Officers everywhere but if the title is that incomprehensible, will anyone really notice when it is gone?

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