Future of Work No Job Titles

Are Skills Truly the New Currency for the Future of Work?

Originally published on Forbes. Written by Anne Fulton, CEO and Founder of Fuel50.

Do job titles limit the full potential of your workforce? This is the all-important question facing many HR leaders today as we move towards a skills-based future.

While the debate between jobs vs skills continues, some organizations are already embracing skills over job titles as the new currency of work.

These organizations are building an environment where employees are recognized for their skills, capabilities, and experiences. This model of work, also referred to as holacracy, deeply resonates with skills-centric initiatives by prioritizing skills to create more workforce transparency, autonomy, and agility.

Why More Organizations Are Embracing Skills As the Modern Metric for Work

Job titles have always been the way we effectively communicate the type of work someone does and their level of experience. While beneficial, job titles can sometimes be restrictive, vague, and inconsistent, often failing to encompass a person’s full set of skills and capabilities.

This often creates confusion around the work an employee is responsible for. As this confusion grows over time, it can lead to workplace inefficiencies, reduced productivity, and low morale.

A ‘holacratic’ workforce, on the other hand, replaces the traditional hierarchy with a fluid organizational structure. Employees aren’t tied to a specific role or job titles, instead, they are self-managed and are assigned to projects based on their skills and interests. Decision-making authority is distributed amongst team members, allowing for more autonomy, creativity, and innovation.

Are Skills Truly the New Currency of the Future of Work?

Spearheads of the Skills Movement

Progressive organizations such as Gore-Tex, Patagonia, and Zappos are joining the skills movement as they start to implement flat organizational structures that eliminate restrictive job titles and encourage employees to define themselves by the projects they are working on. While each organization has a different reason for making this move, the most common is the need for simplification, better productivity, and greater innovation.

The late Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, explained that he wanted to create a less bureaucratic corporation and instead foster a self-organizing business that enables employees to act more like entrepreneurs. Jason T. Smith, CEO of Back in Motion Health Group, wanted to shake up their traditional top-down approach to leadership and decision-making.

As Smith explains here, “Conversations happened behind closed doors. Without noticing it, elitism and class divisions crept into our workplace. People were artificially designated as executive, management, and support strata. Influence was driven more by seniority and position than by intelligence and merit. Creativity was dying.”

Start embracing employees for their skills

While the removal of restrictive job titles is starting to gain traction, not everyone is on board just yet. According to Fuel50 research, 64% of HR leaders have no intention of removing job titles any time soon.

It is also worth mentioning that adopting this approach should not be taken lightly. Removing job titles completely can create a looming sense of uncertainty and unpredictability if not done with care. Employees may be resistant to change or may not fully understand the benefits.

However, smaller steps, such as embracing employees for their skills, implementing project-based work, and incremental title changes can be more beneficial. This approach gives employees a voice, makes them feel valued for their contributions, and reduces the risk of feeling stifled by the vertical chain of command.

While the future of work may not completely disregard job titles, skills are becoming far more valuable. It’s best to start preparing your workforce with incremental changes now so they can navigate this new fluid work environment with ease and positivity in the future.


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