Why it’s time firms gave job titles the sack, says The7stars: An obsession with hierarchies is no good for any business

Lack of labels will boost autonomy and creativity
Talent delivery specialist, digital prophet and chief happiness officer all have something in common – they are ridiculous, but very real, job titles. For decades, people have used job titles to assert authority, get a leg up the pay ladder and define their role. But these increasingly meaningless monikers have no place in a modern business.
Thanks to a combination of more liberal-minded workplaces and accessible technology, jobs today are often too wide-ranging to be defined by a handful of words. So why bother? Job titles are archaic and have zero benefit to staff or employers. Companies try to find favour by calling themselves “flat-structured”, but how can that be true when every employee and department is defined by titles?
At independent media agency the7stars, we have 110 staff – none of them have job titles, and we are all the better for it. So how can eradicating job titles improve a business?

ENCOURAGING CREATIVITY

Not having titles frees people up to be far more flexible and creative in the work they do, and it breaks down barriers as to who devises or executes an idea. For a happy workplace, it’s important that people don’t feel pigeon-holed, and eradicating titles encourages lateral career development and personal fulfilment – you really can make the role your own. Titles make people feel restricted by what they do, and can prevent them doing work that could benefit both themselves and the firm.
Giving a member of staff the autonomy and opportunity to truly shape their role and career also makes the company a far more appealing employer, which means it can attract better quality people.

AVOIDING UNNECESSARY PROCESSING

Maintaining a strict hierarchy within a business is a huge waste of time. Companies can easily get overwhelmed with internal processes – appraisals, performance management, job titles, team structures, and so on – when some of that time could be better spent training and motivating people to the best of their ability.
Of course you need to be well-managed as a business and have open lines of communication, but there are ways of doing that more efficiently than giving people titles, putting them in boxes and adding to the paperwork.

FACILITATING TEAMWORK

True teams (sports teams for example) are not generally hierarchical, and everyone knows their unique role without one being more senior or better than others. Job titles can increase unhealthy competition in the workplace and create a corporate ladder where everyone is clamouring for the top. They can encourage employees within a company to compete against each other for promotion, or titles or perceived importance.
As an agency, we are very competitive – but we are competitive against outside companies. We try not to have any competition internally, because it can be counterproductive. Yes, we encourage drive and ambition, but there are better ways of inspiring staff than prefixing their names with “chief”, “director” or “vice president”.
Jenny Biggam is co-founder of the7stars.

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