When you start a team, you will inevitably have a flat structure. Everyone does more or less the same role. There's loads of burning fires, lots of interesting work to do. You all know each other well. There doesn't seem to be any need for structure with senior roles and different job titles.
But you will find at some point that lack of structure starts to break down. And that putting structure in retrospectively can be painful.
This problem will emerge when people are starting to ask about what's next for them in their career, or you're trying to hire someone who currently has Senior in their job title and it feels uncomfortable telling them that they're just going to be in the same role as everyone else.
That may work for Facebook and Google and the big companies that have such strong hiring brands that people want to work for them anyway. But if you're a smaller company and a smaller team, it's important to introduce some structure and give people job titles.
It's just simple. Keeping things simple. One team, one dream. But what every employee starts to need to know, How am I doing at work? Am I progressing? Am I moving at the same speed as my peers? Am I going to get a good job after this? By having a flat structure, you're doing them a disservice.
For better or for worse, job titles are the language that are most commonly used around with respect to career trajectories.
Whilst there are issues with job title inflation and titles having different meanings in different companies, it's more important to give people what they need to feel like they're growing at work. As it stands it's far more likely that you're going to get a new title by moving job than by getting an internal promotion, and that's a real problem.
You may not be spotting it
The challenge is that people won't necessarily complain about this problem. If everyone agrees that flat structures are easier or better, they may just not say that actually they do want a new title but that they don't feel like they can ask for it because it goes against company culture.
Our golden rule at Progression is that everyone should have somewhere to go.
Give everyone something to aim at. They don't necessarily have to hit it, and many won't. But having something to aim at is really important.
That doesn't necessarily even have to be a new title, it could be working on more interesting projects, or even just a pay rise, but something that demonstrates that if they do their job well they can progress somehow.