What does the word 'senior' in a job title really mean?

May 29, 2018 Brian Crook

Are organizations today using senior at the front of their job titles to promote internally because of length of service ?

Does being in a role and meeting certain conditions qualify you for senior status?

In my experience, the word senior is often applied for the wrong reasons to a job title and establishes an outdated hierarchical order. In most organizations that use these titles, the word senior implies superiority over junior employees. Junior employees strive to become a senior employees because they see it as a badge of honor and a confirmation that they are a 'worthy' employee. 

The problem is that in today's workforce we find many junior employees are genuinely talented. If people assume that the equation senior>junior is always true, this can have negative implications. For instance, simply having the word senior in your job title doesn't necessarily equal talent. Sadly, it seems many companies allow employees to add senior to their title for length of service.  More often than not being qualified in your role or being in your role for many years does not really make you senior.

In the last company I worked for the word senior was blooming like flowers in spring.  Every title seemed to have the word senior attached to it, from senior implementation consultant, to senior HR business rep.

So what is a true determination of 'seniority'? 

HRSG uses competency modeling to determine whether an employee meets job requirements. These competencies are objective and clearly defined, ranging from behavioral, to technical, to leadership. This means you can make a qualified assessment of which employees truly deserve to have a senior title. 

This graphic shows HRSG's CompetencyCore software and how employee competencies are compared against job requirements. 

For those employees craving seniority within your organization, you can use competency-based career pathing to set them on the correct path. This ensures they will remain committed and engaged, and will obtain the skills they need to succeed in positions that require more responsibility. 

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