by Achim Nowak

What do your employees REALLY need from you?

August 21, 2022

Earlier this month, Emma Goldberg wrote a compelling article in The New York Times that caught my attention: “Head of Team Anywhere and Other Job Titles for an Uncertain Time” (4/8/2022).

Some of the new job titles had me chuckling.

And I got the point.

In a time when millions of people who used to go an office are still working from home and may never go back to a physical office, all the essential work-satisfaction-questions return in new form: Why do folks stay at a company? What makes them feel like they belong? What meets their deepest desires for job satisfaction?

Goldberg points out that job titles have always changed with the times. When new information technologies emerged in the 1980s, suddenly we had Chief Information Officers. When political leaders starting showing up in tech firms, we suddenly had Chefs of Staff. And as the competition for talent has become increasingly fierce, we suddenly have Chief People Officers instead of Chief Human Resource Officers.

Here are some of the new job titles that have emerged during the pandemic as companies grapple with workplace disruptions and a workforce that literally – and emotionally – feels a lot more distant:

  • “Head Of Team Anywhere” at Althassian, a company that makes collaboration software.
  • “Head of Dynamic Work” at Okta, a cybersecurity company.
  • “Head of Remote” at GitLab, a software development company.
  • “Vice President of Product Evangelism” at Gtmhub. A company that makes management software.
  • “Vice President of Flexible Work” at Zillow.

Yes, you too may chuckle, but LinkedIn has seen a 304 percent rise in new titles that reference hybrid work or are related to the future of work.

I appreciate the burning questions that underlie these job titles. Why would anyone want to work here, with us? How do we make this a place where the way we work works for our people?

In 2011, Daniel Pink tackled these questions in his now classic “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” He spelled out the 3 areas that unleash any worker’s intrinsic motivation. Fancy new title or not, I invite you to consider these 3 areas and translate them into how you operate in the midst of your new pandemic-workplace-reality.

Daniel Pink’s Key Workforce Motivators


Is there room for those who work for you to make decisions? Is there an opportunity to initiate projects? Is there a chance to experiment and try new ways of doing things? Are there opportunities to stretch and fail? Are there substantial chunks of a work cycle that do not require a review or approval process?

The opposite of autonomy: The General Manager of a $ 400 Million dollar revenue worksite tells me of having to go “up the chain” and waiting for 7 weeks to hire a new part-time employee. And you wonder why he left?


Do folks who work for you have a chance to take on increasingly challenging tasks? Do you hold real and honest conversations about enhancing workplace performance (as opposed to going through the motions because you have to conduct a performance review)? Do you have leaders who know how to appropriately challenge their teams and help them live up to their potential? Do you offer training, coaching and other developmental opportunities at every organizational level? Is a personal-growth-mindset fully integrated into how you “do work?”

The opposite of Mastery: You are limited to forever performing the one or two tasks you do very well. You become known as the expert in these tasks - but you never tap or master your full potential.


Does your business have a purpose beyond enhancing shareholder value? Is this a true purpose (as opposed to a clever marketing purpose on your firm’s website)? Is everyone’s work contribution tied to such a deeper purpose? Are your statements of purpose and values actually “lived” and embodied at work? Do the leaders you work for/with show interest in your personal purpose, separate from what the corporate purpose may be?

The opposite of Purpose: A purpose connects us to the heart-and-soul reasons for getting out of bed in the morning and going to work. It channels our dreams.  Going to work in a place without purpose is like living a slow death every day.

The frameworks and models for taking care of our employees are well-tested. We know what they are. Remote or hybrid work was alive and well before Covid came around. Whatever you are inventing now has been invented before.

Have fun with the job titles. But it’s about more than a new title. Isn’t it?

In case of doubt, consider Pink’s 3 workplace motivators as your North Star.

Address these 3 needs, and you will fare a lot better than if you don’t.

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