I detest boxes. I hate job titles and job descriptions. For a long time, I didn’t even want our employees to have a job title. I just wanted them to use their names. Erwin, Mijke, Louise, Taco. That was all the job title we needed. But my colleagues didn’t like putting down Louise or Erwin as their job title on their LinkedIn profile. And if we needed to hire someone new in a similar position it was kinda weird to ask for ”A second Taco”.
So, all in all, having a name as a job title isn’t a good idea. I was rather reluctant to admit that though. But I finally gave in and everybody at Yoast has a proper job title now. That being said: the reason behind my aversion towards job titles is still very valid. In this blog post, I will explain why I was a strong believer in having names for job titles. This post is a third blog post in a series about company culture.
Looking at the person
The reason for me wanting people to have their name as their job title was that job titles never truly do justice to the person. Everybody has different skills. No two people (even if they have the same job) are equal. They have different talents. They will like different aspects of their job. They will have different ambitions. And that’s such a good thing. That’s something we should cherish, always. A name does more justice to an individual than a job title. And, when a company is small, you’ll never have two people in the same job.
While I do understand the necessity to have a job title, I still like to think of each employee as a unique person. People do have job titles at Yoast, but I couldn’t tell you what each person’s job title is. It still doesn’t really matter to me. I do know everyone’s names, their spouses’ names, their kids’ names and their pets names. I am interested in them. I can also make a rather detailed description of their qualities. And I think that’s much more important.
Everybody has a different skill set
So many people at Yoast are working in a certain job, but also have skills which are unrelated to their job. These skills regularly proof to be really useful for our company though. For example, we have two wonderful developers who also happen to be great photographers. Their job title is developer, but whenever we need professional photos taken, they are our go-to-guys.
People within a team will have their specialties. As our organization became bigger, teams arose. People with the same job are clustered in a team. If someone gets sick another person can take over their work. That’s a good thing, I get that. At the same time, people should still be encouraged to think and talk about what they like the most. People should specialize the way they want to and in a way that they can use their talents best.
In our blog team, we have someone who’s interested in technical SEO, and we also have someone who likes to write sales copy. We train them to get even better in their jobs. In order to know how to train them, we need to talk to them, get to know what their ambitions are. We need to look beyond the job title and really see the person.
Yoast grows and our employees grow
Our company is growing rather rapidly. That means that we’ll hire new employees every now and then. I always tell the people in my team to think about what part of their job they like the most. What are they really good at? What would they like to learn? As our company is growing, we have room for our employees to grow as well. If we hire someone new, we should hire someone in an area that is complementary to the skill sets and the ambition of our current employees.
People grow in all possible directions at Yoast. One of our developers started blogging at Yoast.com and eventually left the development-department and is now working in marketing. We have several linguists that learned how to code and are now full stack developers. We have people from our SEO department and our development department transferring to support. Our most inspiring example is Karin. We hired Karin to prepare lunch and she’s now Community Manager at Yoast.
In an organization which is growing, people can grow accordingly. You just need to make sure you really see them. You need to make sure to see all of their qualities. And those are really easy to overlook if you take a job title too seriously. Karin applied for the position ‘facility staff member.’ Yoast was rather small back then, her main tasks were preparing lunch and cleaning up and organizing the offices. We quickly noticed that Karin’s English was flawless. She was a great people person. She was persistent, very creative and really eager to learn. We allowed her to grow way beyond her job title. She became an indispensable member of our Yoast-crew in just a few short years.
Company culture: hire for talent and train for skill
At Yoast, we believe people can become anything. We try to hire talented people and train them, coach them. We have hired lots of intelligent people with an interest in coding and turned them into awesome full stack developers. Lots of people at Yoast end up doing something completely different than for which we hired them. And that’s such a good thing. You can’t do that if you focus too much on job titles and job descriptions. People should be able to grow naturally.
After all, if you’re growing a company, your employees are your most important asset. You need to make sure that you’re ‘using’ their skills the most effective. Find out what they’re good at, find out what they want to do, find out about their ambitions. And try to help them grow into that path.
If you want to read more about company culture and company culture at Yoast, there are two previous posts in this series. I wrote about the importance of knowing your colleagues and about our HR-policy: if you’re good for your employees, they’ll be good to you.