I2OC-22 Icon International Occupational Classification®

A new international standard that classifies job titles by function and role. The methodology easily structures millions of positions and establishes a foundation for comparison across languages, borders, and infrastructures.

Icon Business Solutions has put its expertise in master data management to use in developing a modern, international, and intuitive methodology for selecting job titles.

I2OC-22® makes life easier, creating a better base of data for CRM, DMP, e-mail systems, membership organisations, HR, international corporations, payroll systems, company databases, and any others with unstructured titles.

It is based on the combination of function and role, and can be summarised as follows:

  • Function provides some description of what department you work at, or what you work with.
  • Role is what you work as, or what hierarchical position you have in the organisation.

For example: In the job title “marketing manager”, “marketing” designates function while “manager” is the role this person holds.

The methodology, which has been registered as the trademark Icon International Occupational Classification (I2OC-22®), provides you with a simple and straightforward way to select contacts with the desired position. Below is a schematic representation of this methodology.

On the left is the organisational chart, in which each box represents a function. On the right is the organisational pyramid, illustrating where the person's role is located. In the middle are job titles, combining roles and functions.

For marketing, the structure makes it easy to build targeted segments, and as all marketers know: Segment-based communication yields a greater response than if the same message is sent to a more diffuse target group.

I2OC-22® is designed for system administrators in CRM and e-mail systems, employer and employee organisations, associations with members in the labour force, HR systems, international corporations, company and customer databases, market monitors, accounting systems, and research institutions.

Here is an in-depth explanation for why we at Icon Business Solutions (IBS) have developed I2OC-22®, and why we believe this methodology is superior for structuring job titles.

Job classification 1958 - 2021

In public company registers, it is common to use NACE, SIC or NAICS to classify industries. These are common standards across the world and are recognisable to anyone who works with company databases. This system is so important that most companies would likely find it difficult to operate without industry codes.

Below is an example from Sweden:

There is an equivalent, but somewhat less well-known system for titles: ISCO-08, International Standard Classification of Occupations.

ISCO-08 is used by national statistics bureaus around the world, and it is flexible enough to list local jobs like“kangaroo farmer” in Australia and “lakseoppdretter” in Norway.

Here are the national varieties from the USA (Bureau of Labor Statistics), Norway (Statistisk sentralbyrå) and Sweden (Statistikmyndigheten).

The graph shows the typical use of ISCO for the purposes of statistics.

Outdated architecture

However, the architecture behind this system was developed many years ago, and was based on retrieving codes through manually looking them up in a printed catalogue.

Here is a quote from the website of the International Labour Organisation, describing ISCO-08:

“ISCO-08 was adopted through a resolution of a Tripartite Meeting of Experts on Labour Statisticsheld in December 2007. This resolution was subsequently endorsed by the Governing Body of the ILO in March 2008.”

Many may conclude here that 2007-2008 was not too long ago, and that ISCO-08 should be just as relevant today. One should then be reminded that the iPhone was launched in 2007 and that computers were considerably less prevalent than they are today. It is also important to note that the analogue approach to this system is reflected in the fact that ISCO-08 is built on the earlier editions, i.e., ISCO-88, ISCO-68 and ISCO-58.

Conclusion: There is no doubt that the more than 60-year-old ISCO system bears the marks of having been constructed as a paper-based catalogue for manual lookups.

Impossible to set up precise algorithms

The biggest problem with the ISCO system is that the system mixes several dimensions in the table, in every direction. A title can have multiple entries based on the type of function, type of industry, tools and materials used in the production of different goods, the size of the company, title level, and the person's education, level of expertise, or area of expertise. In addition to all this, it has been taken into account that work is done under greater or lesser degrees of managerial supervision in different countries. It is also problematic that the coding of the same position may partially deviate from country to country.

All these dimensions make it highly demanding – if not practically impossible – to set up precise algorithms or efficient manual procedures to classify a large volume of titles. In addition, it is impossible to run good comparisons across national borders.

A good example of a title with multiple entries per country and a lack of a direct, international connection is “Daglig leder”. In Norwegian, there are codes for 27 varieties, as well as two codes for “Administrende direktør”, which is the same job in terms of its role. In Sweden, there are 29 codes for “Verkställande direktör”. In the USA, the title is “Chief Executive Officer”, while in the UK it is “Managing Director”. Both of these also feature different varieties in the national systems.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. For example, the same ISCO-08 standard has 29,900 titles in the UK compared to 8,900 in Sweden. In the UK, you can find the title “YouTuber”, which is not included in the tables for the other countries that have been mentioned.

ISCO-08 is based on job function and not on what the company uses as a title. Difficulties in interpretation are often encountered when a title such as “performance marketing lead” is to be placed into a rigid code structure. Or when our own databasemedarbeider (“database representative”) is to be registered in the Norwegian “A-ordning”, an official payroll register. She is now a markedsassistent (“market assistant”) in the register of the Norwegian Tax Administration. This is because her title does not exist in STYRK 98, the Norwegian version of ISCO-08.

In summary, ISCO-08 functions poorly as a structuring methodology because:

1.     It lacks international synchronisation

2.     Too many dimensions are used

3.     The system is based on job definitions and not on the titles that are used

This formed the background for Icon Business Solutions to begin creating a modern job classification system.

I2OC-22®: A modern job classification system

The task of applying the dimensions in ISCO-08 is also in many cases unnecessary, adding only complexity. For instance, this is the case for firmographics such as employee counts, industry, and revenue. This data is available at the company level and can be retrieved through ordinary database queries.

A further consequence of the present job classification is that variations such as language versions, misspellings, New Norwegian, synonyms and multi-titles must be processed manually or through a series of queries with spell checker and translation features.

If translation algorithms are applied, these will then have to be checked manually. One example is “Verkställande direktör” (“CEO” in Swedish), which Google translates to “Painlodging director”.

There is a surprising amount of variation in how contacts write their own titles. Titles are written in different languages, often with misspellings, synonyms are used, and many titles are linked together. Our surveys show that every fourth title on LinkedIn features a unique spelling, and the table below presents a small selection for the word “Controller”:

The table above shows the results after the titles have been processed with I2OC. In raw text, it may look like this for marketing managers:

  • Marketing manager
  • Markedsjef
  • Markedssjef
  • Marked sjef
  • Head of marketing
  • Marknadschef
  • Leder for markedsavdelingen
  • Markedsføringsansvarlig
  • Retail marketing lead
  • Leiar sal og marknad

A physical person will know that in principle, all these titles are the same. This is far worse for machines, but this problem is solved by I2OC-22®. As of January 2022, we have narrowed 2.4million title strings from LinkedIn down to combinations of 1200 functions and 450 roles. The English language is used as a master, and all synonyms, translations, and misspellings are linked to this version.

For people who work with sales, it is essential to match the product to the customer’s needs. Needs are most easily read from the employee’s function and/or title. If you are selling to the marketing department, you are generally looking for titles that contain the word “Marketing”.

If you are selling to the head of the department, you look for managerial titles such as “Manager”, “Head”, etc. It is assumed here that the manager at the department has a different role than, for instance, a coordinator. In other words, a system is needed at the title level that is based on work tasks defined by the role and/or function.

Intelligent processing of the word “controller”

In the table above, the job title “Controller” has been selected. This is a position in the staff or the financial department, and the controller would therefore be a potential purchaser of, for example, a BI system. The problem with searching through an unstructured system for anyone with a connection to the word "controller" (including where misspellings are taken into account) may result in the list also including anyone who is an “Air Traffic Controller”. I.e., someone who sits in an air traffic control tower and has nothing to do with the financial function. In other words, it would be a waste of time to call them, and it will impact your deliverability if they receive an e-mail from you.

The solution is to have classified all jobs in a system so that you can exclude the word “Air traffic” in your search. This gives you a precise prospect list, in which 100 percent of the contacts are in the target group.

Failure to include results in lower sales

The “Air Traffic Controller” example illustrates how a system must be able to exclude certain contacts. It isequally important to be able to include all potential prospects in the list. If the system is unable to link synonyms, misspellings, and language variants of the same title, then it is inevitable that the list will include fewer contacts than the market potential. A company can miss a lot of sales here.

For example: If your marketing reaches only 80 percent of the contacts in your database, then this potentially means a 20 percent reduction in sales. If you are able to find the last contacts, however, this means 20/80, i.e., a 25 percent higher sales potential.

Here, a database structured with I2OC-22® will come into play.

Building lists with I2OC-22®

Let's say you want to reach managers in “purchasing”. You may then choose:

Role Level:
Middle Managers

Here, we have made it simple by gathering related roles by hierarchical level, the role level. With this option, you can include leader, manager, head of, vice president, as well as misspellings and abbreviations such as manger and VP. You also gain equivalent titles, synonyms, and misspellings in local languages. (Examples of this can be seen in the illustration for “controller”, shown above.)

For function, you choose:

Supply chain

Here you again include all varieties of synonyms, misspellings, as well as abbreviations in English and in local languages.

If you want full control, you can open the structure to filter individual roles. If you want a greater overview, you can select from groups of functions or titles.

Summary: A solid structure ensures that everyone in the target group is included in your list, and you gain a 100 percent sales potential.

I2OC-22®: A dynamic system

In summary, I2OC-22® is:

  • International: Collects all languages under the English master level
  • Simple: All jobs can be described as function + role
  • Consistent: All related synonyms, misspellings and abbreviations are connected to the right role or function. Related roles are gathered at hierarchical levels.
  • Dynamic: The  contacts’ own titles are entered into the system.

To keep the system up to date at all times, we collect titles from order and invoicing systems, LinkedIn, “Contact Us” pages, official pages for translations of official titles, reports in the media, press releases, CDP, CRM and mail systems from as many sources aspossible.

For each title that goes through classification, two main questions are asked:

  1. What department are you in, or what do you  work with? The answer to these questions is the function
  2. What do you work as, or what hierarchical position do you have in the organisation? This is the role

We start the classification using advanced algorithms. The results of these questions, as well as all unclassified titles, are then checked manually. For the manual component, we have employees who both know the contents of our own database and the external sources that must be consulted if something is unclear.

This way, we make sure to keep the system living and relevant. Some would perhaps call us nerds, but order in this universe in essential for you to structure your data as you want it.

The target group for I2OC-22®

I2OC-22® is suitable for anyone who has large volumes of job position data:

  • System administrators for CRM  and e-mail systems: Better overview for customers and more  qualified contacts in inquiries
  • Employer and employee organisations: Better overviews of pay developments and turnover
  • Associations with members in the labour force: Development in different job groups
  • HR systems: Better overview of position categories and pay developments
  • Large, international corporations: International dynamics in pay and position categories
  • Business community and customer databases: Structuring of free-form titles and improved segmenting
  • Market monitors: Developments in turnover and position categories by company
  • Payroll and accounting systems: Structuring of free-form titles and assistance with the national occupational classification
  • Research institutions: Access to raw data that has not be manipulated in  registration. Better pay statistics.

The classification system is available via API. You may also access further documentation and a demonstration that can make queries using live data. At the back end, there is a user-friendly administration module for manually verifying data.

Please feel free to get in touch to learn how we can help you achieve structured job position data.

The product owner for I2OC-22® is Jonas Hjalland, who can be reached by e-mail at jonas@iconbusiness.solutions or by phone at + 47 988 19 468.