In most industries—advertising included—job titles are useful for conveying experience level, function, and responsibility. But I’ve found that they can be an ineffective way for a company to recognize its people, lead to inflated egos, and damage a company’s culture. As the founder of three agencies over the course of my career, I’ve been able to experiment with different business models before settling on a unique “no titles, no offices, no egos” approach at my current company, Fingerpaint.
Basically, this means that employees are recognized only by their job function, such as account service, developers, etc. We don’t have corner offices (I even sit in a cubicle along with the rest of the agency), and we don’t tolerate the big egos that having infinite prefixes or suffixes attached to one’s name can sometimes lead to. Titles can really get in the way of collaboration and as an extension, creativity and work potential. Many people might scoff at our approach, but I believe it’s one of the key components of Fingerpaint’s culture that has contributed to our continued success. Below are some proof points that we’ve noticed while working with this business model.
Putting People First Works
The inspiration for eliminating titles came from my philosophy of putting employees first. And when we say we put people first, we mean all people, no matter how junior, no matter the department. In treating all employees with empathy, it was a natural extension to move forward without traditional titles as our agency grew so that we could ensure our founding values endured no matter how big we got. Our investment in our staff is so paramount because we know that for people to do their best work, they need to feel supported and valued as human beings rather than for the revenue they generate.
Creating Uncommon Collaboration
We’ve found that eliminating titles has been amazing for our culture. The approach creates an equal playing ground for everybody, no matter their experience level or job function, and it fosters an environment of unique collaboration. The 23-year-old employee feels comfortable giving input in meetings right alongside industry vets. Happier employees who believe their ideas are valued are more dedicated to their roles and thus produce the best work possible for our clients, while enabling us to keep growing and solving their marketing challenges.
Ensuring Career Growth
Just because we don’t have titles doesn’t mean there is no sense of organization or hierarchy within Fingerpaint. About a year ago, we instituted a comprehensive career progression guide that outlines specific job responsibilities and levels based on department, so employees know exactly where they stand and how to progress to the next level. A guide so comprehensive and concretely laid out is very rare in our industry, and our employees appreciate the transparency it provides. With clearly defined goals to work toward, our employees are more dedicated and tend to stick around longer than at the average agency.
Our journey to becoming an 80-million-dollar agency did not happen without hiccups. We heard feedback from employees who felt confused about their career progression, and while our guide has largely quelled those concerns, there will always be those who simply don’t want to be in this type of environment. That’s okay with us. We believe that we’ve created a positive culture by eliminating the layer of distraction titles add, and the positives far outweigh any negatives.
While this business model may not work for everyone, we’ve certainly found success, and we’ve discovered that it attracts the types of employees we want at Fingerpaint to help us do our best work. I attribute our growth and accomplishments to our people. By eliminating the stress of worrying about their title or whether they can speak up in an already demanding industry, we’re able to more effectively focus on what is important: our clients and our work. To learn more about this philosophy, check out www.edmitzen.com.