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April 27, 2023

Pearl Meyer Survey Shows Significant Change in Job Title Practices Pre- and Post-Pandemic

Companies are more frequently using titles to attract, reward, and retain talent

BOSTON—April 27, 2023—Pearl Meyer has published a new survey that points to a material change in US companies’ use of job titles. The 2023 Pearl Meyer Job Titling Practices Survey includes information for more than 400 public, private, and not-for-profit organizations and shows a substantial shift in the data from the prior edition, published in 2018.

“We have all heard and experienced so much turmoil in the job market over the last few years and much of the emphasis has been on a combination of compensation and flexibility in this war for talent,” said Rebecca Toman, vice president of the survey business unit at Pearl Meyer. “However, our data indicate that companies are also increasingly reliant on job titles as an important component of their strategy.”

More than half of the companies surveyed (54%) are leveraging job titles to attract prospective employees, a 35% increase from 2018. There has also been an increase from 30% to 38% in the use of a job title to determine eligibility for some compensation programs.

“Where we see the most eye-popping numbers is in the significant effort to reward and retain employees through the use of titles,” said Toman. “Thirty-seven percent of respondents are actively applying titles as a way to retain key employees, which is up from 27% in 2018. Further, a third of those surveyed use titles to reward current employees and this is a 74% increase from pre-pandemic levels.”  

Signaling a need to retain and reward the existing workforce in the face of a potential economic slowdown, the survey shows a growing number of companies (13%) are explicitly deploying job titles “when funds are limited.”

“Job titles can be practical tools for employers and compensation professionals, but in general, I would not rely on them as a strong retention option unless they are backed up by a pay increase,” said Susan Sandlund, managing director and leadership practice lead at Pearl Meyer. “This data may indicate some employers are recognizing that in the absence of large compensation increases, they need to offer something to key employees. I see this as a somewhat positive development in terms of recognizing there are rewards beyond pay that have meaning to individuals. However, I would counsel organizations to likewise focus on career development opportunities and keep a close eye on maintaining a positive corporate culture. These elements are proven retention tools.”

 Key Findings: Changing Uses or Drivers of Job Titles Between 2018 and 2023

  • Recognize and/or reward employees when funds are limited: from 8% to 13%, a 62.5% increase
  • Reward current employees: 19% to 33%, a 74% increase
  • Retain current employees: 27% to 37%, a 37% increase
  • Attract prospective employees: 40% to 54%, a 35% increase
  • Determine eligibility for certain compensation programs: 30% to 38%, a 27% increase

Methodology and Availability

Pearl Meyer’s Job Titling survey is conducted periodically; the last survey was published in 2018. More than 400 respondents from public, private, not-for-profit/government chartered organizations contributed data to the 2023 survey. Respondents’ annual revenue, assets, or operating budget ranged from under $100 million to over $30 billion. Results are offered according to revenue and broad industry groupings (industrials/materials; consumer discretionary/staples/services; healthcare; financials; information technology/telecom services; and energy/utilities). Complete survey results include a full list of participating organizations and are available for purchase.

Additional Resources

About Pearl Meyer

Pearl Meyer is the leading advisor to boards and senior management helping organizations build, develop, and reward great leadership teams that drive long-term success. Our strategy-driven compensation and leadership consulting services act as powerful catalysts for value creation and competitive advantage by addressing the critical links between people and outcomes. Our clients stand at the forefront of their industries and range from emerging high-growth, not-for-profit, and private organizations to the Fortune 500.

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