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I am leading a team of SW engineers. Recently, in our enterprise, it was decided to not use Sr./Jr. titles because they had been abused. The argumentation is that some people were given these titles and others not in conflict with the actual seniority/experience. In my opinion, this was a problem in the implementation rather than the titles themselves, and it could happen to any other title. However, the decision was made, and no one is willing to open the topic again. Although I know titles are worthless outside the organization, I still believe they give our employees a sense of recognition and achievement. Now, I am left with limited options. I need to craft career path for our engineers to show they are progressing and gaining more responsibilities and experience.

All what comes to my mind is: Lead Engineer, Principal Engineer, Chief Engineer. However, all these can be very senior, and do not see them filling the gap between SW Engineer and Lead Engineer, as an example. I also thought of numbering (Engineer I, Engineer II, ...etc.). This was declined outright for good reasons (we do not want to treat our employees like robots ... etc.)

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    Titles are not worthless outside your org. They appear on CVs, which is why you should consider continuing to use the standard terms. Mar 10 at 7:15
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    "Geriatric" ? no perhaps not just my humor this morning...
    – Solar Mike
    Mar 10 at 7:43
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    So the OP isn't looking for a fundamental way of charting progress (if that progress exists at all), but interesting synonyms that can be abused in the exact same way. Why? Mar 10 at 8:35
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    "it was decided" - then why was not decided what to use else, what do deciders recommend? "to show they are progressing" - Every title can be abused and especially with this background titles eventually are nothing but a game of words. Is it an option to switch to less formal but more actual evidence of progress, such as the tasks one gets assigned, salary, remarks in annual evaluation meetings and others? According to @GregoryCurrie I think inventing alternative names sounds like fun but wouldn't help employees, not outside your company and perhaps not even inside.
    – puck
    Mar 10 at 8:50
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    Does your company use salary bands? These are typically tied to different job levels.
    – Hilmar
    Mar 10 at 13:05
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Any seniority label you use is going to have the exact same problem, so as your team doesn't want them, you could instead reward them based on years of service.

You should have different positions such as "engineer", "lead engineer", but these are not seniority labels. These are different job positions with a different set of responsibilities.

These positions can be applied to if employees want those positions, and base it on their ability to do the job.

As not everyone wants those positions/promotions, and your team doesn't want seniority labels, you can implement something like the following to reward them based on years of service.

This rewards employees for staying at the company longer and motivates them to get to the next level. This is just the basic idea, you can reward them with whatever.

[Label | Years at company - Requirement - Reward]

  • Green | 1 - 2 years - . - gets birthdays off for free
  • Red | 2 - 4 years - completed total of 3 projects - gets additional 2 days holiday
  • Blue | 4 - 6 years - completed total of 10 projects - gets additional 2 days holiday
  • Purple | 6 - 8 years - completed total of 20 projects - gets additional 3 days holiday
  • etc...

You can choose whether or not to use a label such as a colour.

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    It is actually a quite good idea to separate experience from seniority. OP doesn't tell us the locality, but in Europe, this kind of thing is often baked in the laws (at "least years in service", not the "completed projects"). In my experience, companies will usually jam both in those titles. After all, more seniority means more experience, right? Nevertheless, things were decided and you're just muddying the water with your unconventional out-of-the-box thinking. Have a +1. :-)
    – Luc
    Mar 10 at 21:36
  • There's a potential for this approach to become a barrier to recruiting the most experienced engineers. They will find themselves on a par with new graduates, at the bottom of the new grading system.
    – Simon B
    Mar 11 at 10:10
  • As the OP's team has already rejected seniority labels with no option to re-open discussions, experienced engineers are already going to find themselves on par with new graduates in terms of hierarchy.
    – flexi
    Mar 11 at 11:51
  • It's a good point generally, but I don't think it creates or supports any barriers. Seniority labels could still be used along side this approach, but it's not an option for the OP.
    – flexi
    Mar 11 at 11:57
  • This suggestion is to provide a sense of career progression, motivation and reward for time served. More experienced engineers would still be rewarded with a higher salary, but you can't have hierarchy between engineers doing the same job unless you have seniority titles.
    – flexi
    Mar 11 at 11:58
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I would go with "Experienced" Developer/Engineer/etc. I believe it's enough to reflect the seniority of one of your peers over others and does not have much to do about how well they get along with management or anything else that's not related to their actual experience.

"Veteran" Developer/Engineer/etc could work too, if your company is comfortable with using words that may carry a military meaning.

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    Experience is not the same as seniority, though maybe it's close enough here. Mar 10 at 7:30
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I need to craft career path for our engineers to show they are progressing and gaining more responsibilities and experience.

Assuming they are professionals the best way is by remuneration and responsibilities. Many professionals judge their company by what they're paid and what they do, less on what their job title is. Ideally of course you have both, but if that's not possible, money is the best way.

I've worked where every single person in Engineering was a senior engineer including the chap who drove us to jobs. Half the guys held no qualifications. It was just because it looked good to the customers that senior engineers were handling things. But of course all complex work went to a select few actually qualified and experienced to do it.

When I eventually left it wasn't anything to do with the job title, it was because I could make more money doing less elsewhere.

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