For Ellen Miller-Sharp, executive director/chief executive officer of the San Diego County Bar Association, what better way was there to change the way that bar staff members are viewed than to no longer call them “staff?” The shift about two years ago to “internal team members,” she says, was also accompanied by the addition of words such as “specialist” and “expert” to their titles.
“We wanted to create titles that sent a signal to the member that the person they’re talking to at the bar is not their staff member. We’re exposing them to experts in their areas,” Miller-Sharp explains. “Association team members are partners to our members.”
Also in on the title changes: Miller-Sharp—who added CEO to her title—and her executive team, who added chief operations officer, chief financial officer and chief communications officer to their titles last year.
Job titles and responsibilities continue to evolve with changes in the workplace and in society, say those who track such trends, such as ASAE/The Center for Association Leadership. Some name changes reflect an emphasis on greater service and engagement with members and a nod toward the growth of technology and social media, and others may indicate the growing importance of managing associations—a task increasingly akin to running a for-profit company. Though seemingly subtle, many say, the changes also echo the persistent challenges of growing associations and related services, while also attracting top-notch staff to work with them.