Over the last few years, we see many organizations shunning job titles and thinkers in support of this move. Do employees not look for job titles? Titles give them an identity in the organization, within and outside. Recruiters often search for potential candidates based on job titles. One might not agree with what recruiters do, but that’s the reality. Do we not require job titles?
While you are building a large organization, attracting talent from the market and setting processes in place, it is important to have defined systems that work. Employees need clarity who will do what and what authority they have. We have to show a path that an employee can travel on and the destination ahead. We have to define the linkages of each role or job with the others in the organization so that the people occupying those positions work together and collaborate actively.
It could be fashionable for companies to say that all their employees are expected to service customers and hence, all are titled as Customer Service Executives. Similarly, one sees generic titles as Sales Associate, Innovation Evangelist, People Champion, Advisor, Executive and so on. Imagine a person in charge of finances of the company holds a title of People Champion and goes to negotiate the best deal with a supplier. The supplier would be left wondering if this person has the authority and money to buy anything for the organization at all. They would like to talk to a decision maker in procurement, supply chain or finance.
The job title needs to convey what function or department the person belongs to and how does the person fit into the organization’s overall structure. Secondly, the job titles have to be aligned with industry norms and practices so that the employee can use the title to introduce himself or herself in social circles as well as while meeting someone in work settings. Hence, job titles are critical parts of one’s identity within as well as outside an organization and must be done right.
As a person plays a role in an organization and holds the title for a long time, he or she gets deeply entrenched in it. One’s world view gets defined accordingly and hence, one tends to restrict oneself from looking beyond, evaluating new possibilities, even suspecting other alternatives. Often the problems which are apparent to others do not surface because one operate in silos of such great depth that the vision cannot go beyond one’s own silo. One gets confined to a small place and deny oneself the opportunity of creating an impact on a bigger stage.
There are organizations who do not have job titles. Small communities like a family, a local club, the cake shop, the florist and the grocer round the corner do not have job titles in their organizations, yet they function very well. They expect their people to co-own the purpose of their organization and do whatever is required to achieve it. All the people who work in such organizations are members on equal footing and know who has what authority. There is no confusion among the members regarding their duties and responsibilities. They know the consequences of not following the charter of the institution they belong to. They surface problems and opportunities as soon as they spot them, do not let a trouble simmer for long, neither do they let an opportunity go waste. Job titles are not essential in these cases.
They argue, employers cannot find right-fit talent all the time due to limitations in talent pool and inadequate pull-power of an employer brand. Sometimes we get fixated on the kind of person needed to fill a job title and hence, keep the role vacant with the hope of success for an elusive search process.
Rather, we could take on the talent who is good enough and enthused to get on board. The enterprise can go forward doing its business as usual and the new employee sees a long runway ahead. The HR Leader can fabricate a title that suits the capabilities of the person who is selected for the role and leave a headroom for the person to grow into the ideal title. Sounds sensible!
Job titles are needed for a large organization to run well and give an identity to the employees. However, we must be flexible in creating mobility of people holding job roles and innovatively fill roles to suit availability of talent.
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