Do You Trust Your Employees to Choose Their Peers' Job Titles? We Did - Here's What Happened

Andrew Kratz

When we first launched Social Edge, we imagined a flat organization with minimal hierarchies. Individual input and contributions were encouraged, no matter the level of experience. Our team is comprised of thoughtful and intelligent individuals, all of whom provide value to our clients. However, it's now time to consider the career progression of our team, as well as the opportunities available within our company. There were a couple of other compelling reasons, including:

  • Clarity for customers and clients who look to titles to understand experience
  • Transparency on expectations internally


We want to encourage our employees to expand beyond their current skill sets and take on new roles and responsibilities, and would like to benchmark this journey along the way. What better way to measure that growth than by using recognizable titles and defining the expectations and requirements of each level.

  • Associate
  • Senior Associate
  • Consultant
  • Senior Consultant
  • Director
  • Senior Director
  • Vice President


However, we added a twist, and a necessary one if you know anything about our culture. We offered each member of our team the chance to provide feedback (via anonymous survey) of their coworkers. More specifically, we asked each employee to provide each of their colleagues with the title they believed they deserved with regard to their leadership skills and business contributions. It's a little unconventional for sure, but it worked. And here's why:

  1.  We kept it simple. The title definitions were documented and discussed to avoid misunderstanding the intent of the exercise. Also, you can't beat a survey for quick results!
  2. Our culture is very team-oriented (a post on that is in the works!) and everyone's input counts, so this was in line with other decision-making processes already in place.
  3. Since we don't work with every single person on the team on a regular basis, it wasn't fair for it to be left up to one person or the executive team to hand down a title.
  4. The results and comments were shared to provide constructive feedback.
  5. Results weren't tied to compensation.


This process was not without its challenges. There were rumblings of fear and concern from team members - what if someone has an axe to grind? What if I haven't been here long enough to give a true assessment? What if I don't like my title? While there were a number of discussions in our internal Jive Community, Edgeville, expressing these concerns, it was a testament to our culture to see how supportive team members were around this concept and of each other.


In the end, it was a very positive experience, and another milestone in our growth plan. The wisdom of the team in crowdsourcing titles for their peers, reflected senior management's perspective on the title of each employee. With these titles, everyone now has a clearer path for success within Social Edge and can work towards mutually agreed upon goals towards advancement. And the feedback offered was necessary and constructive.


In keeping with our culture, the titles don't dictate behavior. Despite the levels, there's no hierarchy or protocol to contributing to the company, and we've surprised each other with previously unknown interests or connections that support our business needs.


As we approach the five year mark, every one of us is taking stock on where we can have a positive impact on the company. We'll be sharing more on the results of these changes, from both the operational and employee perspective. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and while we know there may be challenges ahead, we look forward to documenting and sharing these experiences.