When should I add more hierarchy to my team?

Posted by Jonny Burch on



When you're starting a team, it's great to be flat. Everyone's just the same role. Anyone can take on anything. There's usually loads of burning fires, lots of really interesting work to do. You're already close or you know each other very well. There's no need for this kind of complicated structure where you're introducing more senior roles and different people have different job titles.

But you will find that some point, that structure starts to break down and you need it a little bit more.

The Problem

You'll know this is happening when, for example, people are starting to ask about what's next for them in their career. Or you're trying to hire someone who is currently a senior 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 just want to work for them anyway. But if you're a smaller company and a smaller team, you're going to find that it's important to introduce some of this structure and give people job titles.

If you haven't got hierarchy, it may feel like you're doing something that is really light, not too much bureaucracy, not too much process.

It's just simple. Keeping things simple. one team, one dream. But what every employee starts to need at some point in their tenure at your business is they're going to want 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? And by having a flat structure, you're kind of doing them a disservice at that point.

For better or for worse, job titles are the language that is most commonly used around moving up in your career.

There are lots of issues with that job title inflation and people being given titles that maybe they haven't necessarily earned or titles mean different things in different companies. That is an issue for sure, but you shouldn't let that put you off when giving people what they need to feel like they're growing at work. Unfortunately statistically 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.

Now, just because your team are asking for different job titles, that doesn't necessarily mean they're thinking of leaving, but it's really important to have that demonstration of personal development even within your role, so that then when you do move on, which is inevitable for everyone, at some point, they're going to be able to demonstrate that they have progressed while they've been with you.

And it's important for lots of things. It's important for the next job. It's important for being able to get that interview.

But it's also important to demonstrate to your peers and other people that you know, who are doing a similar job to you that you're keeping up.

You may not be spotting it

The challenge is that people won't necessarily complain too much about this problem. If everyone is agreeing that flat structures are easier or better, they may be hiding something, which is that actually, they do want that new title and that they don't feel like they can necessarily ask for it because it goes against company culture (or something like that).

It may be something that they want. So it's worth starting to think about introducing the titles.

Our golden rule at Progression is that everyone should have somewhere to go.

So definitely for your more junior roles, give them a thing 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, but something that demonstrates, okay, if I do my job well and then I can move to this. And then I can show that to someone as demonstration. that I'm doing a good job.

We hope this guide has been helpful! Let us know if you'd like us to create guides for any other aspect of career development.

Written by Jonny Burch

Jonny is CEO at Progression


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