The founders of CloudFare, a San Francisco-based provider of internet security services, made a bold decision when building their team.
The unconventional concept is gaining popularity among start-ups and large enterprises alike – no titles for employees.
According to an Inc. article no one at CloudFare, not even the co-founders, has a title. Employees refer to themselves by what they do – engineer, programmer, etc. – vs. a hierarchal designation of their rank within the company.
While it may seem illogical, they may be onto something. CEO Matthew Prince (er, I mean the engineer who founded the company) articulated the insignificance of titles when it comes to getting the job done. “People just want their problems solved, and titles don’t solve problems—talented people solve problems.”
The Case Against Job Titles
Roles and responsibilities can vary significantly from organization to organization. Project Manager, one of the most popular job titles, can mean ten different things at ten different companies depending on the industry and size of the organization.
Titles can be inflated. Many organizations will look to compensate employees by “promoting” them (boosting their titles) vs. increasing their salaries. And many startups give away titles to attract talent, since it doesn’t cost anything.
The Benefits Of A Title-Free Environment
Going title-less has its benefits. Below are two.
It Promotes Fairness
Great ideas come from the bottom up, not just the top down as a traditional business structure would suggest. Without titles, no one can be overlooked or not taken seriously because of their position within the organization. This leads to…
It Encourages a Culture Of Ownership
Without titles, employees feel more comfortable speaking up, whether to offer ideas or criticism. There is no limit to their potential within the organization. In turn, they feel more emotionally invested in the organization. In this type of environment employees measure success by the success of the company, not by each individual employee.
We Think It Makes Sense, Too
Balance Point hosted a day of development for employees a few years ago. Speaker Michael Shapiro, a workplace coach, suggested that our team borrow “the motion picture team model,” an all hands on deck approach to getting the job done. Rather than having a predetermined “boss,” let the situation or project dictate who should take the lead. The task, specs, time and budget should be taken into consideration when assigning roles.
He presented real-life case studies demonstrating exactly how it would work. We agreed it made perfect sense since it’s a philosophy was have adopted since our inception in 2003.
While we haven’t scrapped titles altogether, we do take an all hands on deck approach at Balance Point. New hires are trained in all areas of the business so they can easily step in for each other when and where it’s needed. Egos are checked at the door. Employees are encouraged to collaborate with one another and speak up when they have an idea or concern. This way of thinking is engrained in our culture and will endure as we grow.