February 2, 2019


“Structural reform”, “Flatter Hierarchy”, “Culture development”, these are the terms we hear a lot these days in all the HR Conferences now and then. How much of that is really executed , no one has a clue. 

ICICI Bank decides “NO TITLES” for Senior Management

Yesterday only on 31st Jan 2019, read this news on Economic Times (read the article here)that ICICI Bank is scraping the Titles/Designations for senior management. Going through the whole article, I read that designations at the bank will now be indicative of the function or the job that a person is expected to perform. Executives at the senior management level will have the job title of ‘Head’ followed by their function or department.

The ICICI Bank Spokesperson told ET in an email response – “We are taking a fresh look at our structures, processes and systems, and we are moving to role-based designationsat the senior management level. These role-based designations are being aligned with appropriate decision-making powers so that we can respond to market opportunities in a faster manner.”


Going through the whole article, I could recall reading the same thing long back. TATA Motors did the same in 2017 (Read the article here)and became the news. Back in June 2017 Gajendra S Chandel, chief human resources officer at Tata Motors said, 

“We need to break the silos across the functions,People can now focus on work instead of their designations, This move will enable the company to move away from routine promotions that an employee gets purely by virtue of time spent in harness” 

Both, Tata Motors and ICICI Bank, decided that grades such as assistant general manager, deputy general manager, senior general manager, general manager , Vice President, Senior Vice President, will be removed from the title and will be used only for internal annual appraisals for increase in salary and allowances.

What experts have to say?

 I spoke to few HR Industry experts/professionals for their views on this initiative and got very mixed reviews. 

Ms Shweta Pathak,an Employer Branding and strategic recruitment marketing specialist, awarded as “HR 40 under 40” by Jombay and you have also read about her in my article “India’s top 10 women in HR“, feels very positive about the change and welcomes it. She says

“As workplace culture evolves, employees are asking more than ever before for mentoring, learning opportunities and cross functional roles. Instead of the traditional top-down leadership, we are seeing a shift where teams are becoming flatter and more empowered regardless of your level within the company. a flatter role based structure makes employees feel more empowered and more collaborative. It increases an employs’ level of responsibility. embracing a flatter ,role based culture can build a sense of community where everybody is working together for the shared goal. this will take the focus off “climbing up the ladder”and will encourage an environment where employees are striving for results” 

She adds , “this structure is designed keeping in mind the larger organisation goals and can’t be “one size fits all”. The success or failure of any change depends on Culture, Leadership and Implementation so not judging or speculating ICICI’s decision of change in structure”  

Apparently , these views very much coincide with the views of Gajendra Chandel, ex – CHRO of Tata motors who implemented the move in TATA motors and also Matthew Prince,the co -founder and CEO of Cloudfare.The Co founders immediately after their first meeting decided to let go, of all the fancy titles and designations from day 1. They chose to call them engineer, programmer, designer etc. Matthew told Jeff Header ,(read the whole conversation here)

“Titles definitely come with a cost. The best ideas are bottom-up, not top-down. But in most companies, the ideas come from the top, and hierarchy can mean artificial authority wins, not the best idea. Here, the engineers who write the code push their ideas across and up. 

Makes sense to me, but is India and Indian organisational Culture really ready for this radical change ?Keeping in mind that here executives carry their designations and titles on their sleeve. Thats my question. 

I contactedMr Abhijit Bhaduri,Well known digital Trasnofmation coach and globally celebrated HR expert and author of Digital Tsunamialso shares the concern of this initiative not being well thought. He says ,

” Academic institutions are grappling with Grade inflations and corporates are dealing with designation inflation. When Organisations opt for strength based coaching; or tell people “Everyone is a Leader” – they are creating false expectations. Leadership is hard, it means making tough choices”  

There are few who are hopeful too, Ramkumar, founder of Leadership Centre, who works in leadership consulting and research told ET

“My guess is ICICI will manage to make it work.” 

BTW, TATA MOTOR FAILED. Will ICICI be able to pull it off?

Let us go back and let me remind you, Tata Motors couldn’t carry on with this radical decision for more than a month. In July 2017, the decision was taken back as it yielded no desired results. (read the article here)Company spokesperson then said

” It was earlier decided to do away with designation of employees, however given with the current situation of business turnaround and also reviewing the feedback received from employees across locations, we have decided to continue with the designations”  

It was clear that no one was happy with the decision back then in Tata Motors, will it bring the same fate for ICICI Bank too or will the team manage to pull it off and make the senior management take it down easily. Let’s wait and see. 

You all are welcome to share your views about this decision . what do you feel about it? You can read more such articles and reviews on my LinkedIn Profile or follow me on Twitter for more such updates. please share your views in the comments section .

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