No More Job Titles, Just Function Based Roles

The only established job title I agree with, is ‘Consultant’. They can:

  1. say without fear of repercussion; “I have no idea, but I know someone who does.” They are enablers, not [necessarily] SMEs;
  2. add new projects / functions / experiences to their CVs/resumes because their entire role isn’t defined by a single job description; and
  3. stop someone asking questions about what they do, because the answer; “I’m a consultant.” fulfilled the societal obligation.

Every other title out there tells you what that person does, and to an uncomfortably large [judgemental] degree, WHO they are. Ever taken an instant dislike to someone who told you they were a traffic warden? But how many people really think of themselves as defined by their job? Nurses perhaps, charity workers, priests? Do you really think of yourself as an ‘actuary’, or a ‘receptionist’?

While there are many jobs out there where your personality shines through, most of us are not doing them. We’re working in the information age where we our entire output can easily point to nothing tangible. We’ve ‘made’ nothing, yet we still want to believe that we are making a positive difference, don’t we? How can we possibly put the age old corporate strictures around something so fundamentally different as today’s job market?

Doctors don’t prescribe leaches and bleeding for every illness, banks don’t process every transaction on paper (though I think Lloyds might), so why do we maintain the centuries old concept of pigeon-holing everyone into a job title? Would it not make more sense to describe all the FUNCTIONS or TASKS a business requires, then let the right individual(s) perform them?

How often does the best person to perform a task actually get to do it? They may be in the wrong department, the wrong ‘grade’, or have the wrong boss, but the effect is the same; the person who is paid to perform the task as part of their defined job description does it, and possibly nowhere near as well as the person best suited.

There is a very good chance that no-one even KNEW there was someone who could do it better. Usually this is a combination of two things; 1) no-one bothered to find out, and 2) no-one volunteered the knowledge. This is not just about employers not providing an environment that embraces change, it’s also about employees that don’t WANT change. Either be the agent for change, or don’t complain about the status quo.

How many times have you had an idea for a process change, and new profit line, a morale booster etc, then had it shot down for one or more of the following reasons:

  • It’s not your job, go back to doing what you’re PAID to do;
  • It’s not the right time – with no indication of when it MIGHT be the right time;
  • We’ve always done it this way – try not to punch this person in the face; and/or
  • It simply won’t work – with no indication as to why.

…or a thousand other reasons that all amount to the same thing; You have your day job, leave it at that. You may even have been made to feel bad about suggesting it in the first place, which means you’ll never do it again.

The reasons for this are as infinite as the excuses. A few are:

  • Your boss has no idea what he/she is doing and you’re humiliating them;
  • Your organisation is led by someone with no imagination, or ability to inspire; and
  • They simply don’t understand the concept.

YOU can be just as much to blame however:

  • You spend all your time at work working on things that you are not being paid for, and your real work suffers;
  • You have put no real thought into the idea, or formalised your plan; and
  • Your idea is crap.

But these examples don’t change the fact that most organisations hire people to fulfil a specific task without taking the individual’s full skill-set into account. They are then either marginalised, or actively held back from developing additional skills, or expanding their function beyond a very limited scope (usually departmental).

Nature doesn’t label, it just is. The strongest in the pack is Alpha, the best hunters lead the hunt, and every living thing just gets on with doing what they were born to do. Not humans. We have to label, compartmentalise, pigeon-hole, classify – I mistyped that as ‘calcify’ which is amazingly appropriate – in order to understand. We have good-vs-evil, up-vs-down, in-vs-out, just so we can explain things to ourselves.

In the workplace, the larger a business becomes, the more disconnected it becomes. There is no room for the individual, let alone the individual’s unique set of talents and skills, but I believe this is exactly where we need to go. It may well be that the guy in accounts payable is a wizard at data analytics, so have him help out in Marketing. The girl working in Research & Development has an uncanny ability to relate to people and “talk their language”, so take her out to close the more complex deals.

Once you know the individuals, titles are irrelevant. People just KNOW who they are. The two people above are “the data guru’ and ‘the closer’ respectively, and are happy because they get to do what they’re good at! Who knows, they may even get appreciation for it, and the organisation is happy because they have a competitive advantage.

Even hiring becomes easier. You don’t hire against a job title, you hire against a required skill-set, which is MUCH easier to interview for. Then when you ask that person what title they would like, they can be creative / unique enough never to feel as though they are just another cog in the wheel.

Of course, to the outside world you will still need to give them known titles. Until this catches on anyway. And some people WANT to go to work 9-5, be anonymous, and that’s OK, every business can’t be full of entrepreneurs and go-getters.

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