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Does 2020 spell the death of job titles?



The need to work remotely has enforced digitalisation that has accelerated the pace of various new and existing sectors, including online platforms that give employees access to essential data in real-time.

As companies made adjustments to business operations, these tools ensured productivity levels and provided businesses with innovative and secure ways to access their data, ongoing projects and even pursue new marketing avenues. They may have also inadvertently raised the question: Are job titles as essential as job roles?

In traditional workplaces, job titles such as sales manager or marketing assistant, as well as prefixes like junior or senior become less important as companies move beyond the face to face meetings and impressions created by office interactions. With business increasingly being conducted on email, Zoom calls, and online platforms, a self-managed employee’s definition of their role becomes far more important than their actual title.

In an organization full of talented people, the limitations of a strict hierarchy of job titles become far more apparent.

 “Often, work becomes less about getting the job done and more about the egos and politics that come with the title,“ says Ivan Radmore, CEO of BuzzApex, an online business platform. “Sub-par managers receive unfair promotions, demotivating ‘junior staff’ in the process. The human element can in many instances ironically dehumanize the process of motivating staff. Now is the time to use technology to identify job roles and use metrics to reward performance.”

In a role-based organisation, staff are encouraged and liberated to do what they excel at, even if that translates into holding a number of seemingly unrelated roles. Scroll through the social media platforms and even LinkedIn pages of young people and the emergence of a multi-role descriptor in their bio is prevalent. 

While the merits of experience and growth built over time should never be abandoned, there is every reason in the digital age to explore the idea of creating career stages and determining promotions and rewards on the success achieved in roles identified as best suited to the candidate.

Because many companies are working remotely, and many more will do so in the future, interactions are dependent on competence more so than ever before, as employees won’t be able to reach out to a more experienced colleague or manager as they would in the office. An employee’s ability to make quick decisions when called for therefore becomes more essential. After all, bad calls and delays to responding to issues will come at a cost, at a time when no business can afford.

Traditionally, companies create positions based on required competencies and then rely on the employee’s CV to match these needs. As the extent of an employee’s capabilities isn’t immediately recognised, their potential may not be fully realised. This may then be the time to take a more holistic approach to determine the full extent of someone’s abilities by identifying past roles in more detail. A new online system that identifies extended competencies by verified past employers may help to fast track the process of identifying the right people for the right job role.

“Each promotion and subsequent new job title, past and present, may have been built by skills not necessarily reflected by titles,” says Radmore. “There is greater value in a reference check rich with data on successful roles the employee had, sometimes even outside the scope of their title.  This allows companies to identify a suitable candidate for a remote role that an employee is more likely to excel at, compared to someone selected merely by a job title.“

Maybe it’s time to usher in the age of “holarchy”, a term created in Arthur Koestler’s 1967 book ‘Ghost in the Machine’, an analysis of the human brain and its failings. The term defines an entity in which all parts are working together to create an autonomous whole – a total entity greater than the sum of its parts.

Technology allows us to effortlessly connect people with tasks, roles they must choose to excel at to achieve success, without egos or politics. This means, even in a worldwide pandemic, both companies and employees can seize the moment to fuel productivity and personal ambitions.

Does 2020 spell the death of job titles? Not quite. Save the eulogy, Mr Senior Speech Writer. The discussion has just begun.