By hiring for skills rather than job titles, organisations broaden their talent pools with individuals who have wide-reaching experiences and diversity of thought.
By Simon Kent
Having worked in businesses with traditional corporate hierarchies, the founders of software development company Mindera wanted to create an organisation built around the principles of autonomy, self-management, and collaboration.
“We don’t have job titles,” says Pedro Teixeira, who describes his role as “human engineer” at the company. “Instead of wading through layers of approval and ticking boxes, everyone at Mindera is encouraged to make decisions with the support of mentors and collaborators, not commanders.
Teixeira says this approach makes the business move faster and be more agile. There is no dependence on levels of employees, but on a group of people ready and willing to make things happen. “Our ‘Minders’—how we lovingly refer to employees—like being treated like adults and value our collaborative way of working that values trust over control,” he says.
Mindera still has roles, but they are just a guide. There is also a strong people function that discusses where their employees are, how to support their growth, and who they need to recruit.
“We wanted a model that would give us the flexibility to explore human capabilities outside of a job title,” explains Teixeira. “Without job descriptions, we find people are more likely to take on more responsibility, are able to contribute to other parts of the business, try new things and have new experiences that a long and prescriptive list of responsibilities and expectations simply wouldn’t allow.”
Clear communication across the business, alongside a culture of continuous learning means progression in the company is more about contribution, rather than climbing a corporate ladder.
That said, this method of work is clearly not for everyone. “We choose people carefully,” admits Teixeira, “bringing them in if they align with our principles, have the right technical skills, and can add value to the organisation. If we meet someone we think can add value to Mindera, we bring them on board even if there is not a clear role for them, as that expertise will help grow the business in the long term.”
Rob Fisher, HR director and MD at people, marketing and creative solutions company Strategi Solutions, says that the knee-jerk response for organisations to hire new talent when a job vacancy occurs can be to the detriment of using the skills already available within a business. Analysing positions and people requirements through skills can unlock internal potential, saving the business money in recruitment and perhaps promising a better outcome than if someone were coming to the organisation from elsewhere.
“Following a skilled-based approach when filling positions allows managers to assess what skills their existing employees have, having the knowledge of who is looking for development, and recommending them,” he says. “Not only does this increase job satisfaction and retention by providing existing employees with progression opportunities, but it also saves the business recruitment costs. Having employees buy into the business through promotions is the easiest way to motivate employees to achieve better results.”
For Gill Mahon, chief people and places officer for Totalmobile, taking a skills-first approach has been critical as the company has navigated its way through rapid growth, mergers, and acquisitions. “As part of our people management strategy, we prioritise identifying transferable skills and genuine passion across various departments, recognising that doing so will empower our people to achieve their goals without limitations,” says Mahon. “Additionally, we rely on our people to foster our core belief in ongoing development and encourage progression is crucial to our success, and that is why we provide our people with all the tools they need to succeed. In doing this, we hope to become a destination company for prospective talent.”
Recruiting and managing employees through skills also means the company has been able to prioritise inclusivity and diversity. Mahon says the business has intentionally widened its talent pool, encouraging people to apply even if they don’t tick every box. “We also acknowledge that the perfect candidate rarely exists,” explains Gill, “so we also look at adjacent and diverse skill sets when we recruit our people. This approach not only fosters that diversity and inclusion we strive for, but also ensures we onboard people who bring fresh perspectives, stimulating innovation, encouraging healthy debates, and fueling progression within our organisation.
“By focusing on skills rather than job titles, we have been able to bring in individuals with various backgrounds and experiences on board,” adds Mahon. “This diversity enriches our workforce and contributes to a broader range of perspectives and innovative solutions. It also aligns with our commitment to fostering a fair and open workplace where everyone’s unique talents are valued, heard, and utilised to their full potential.”
Job titles may not yet be obsolete – providing at least a short hand for discussion of a role, or some common ground on which candidate and employer can meet to discuss the possibilities. However, following the skills employees have rather than their career trajectory or expected job title can unleash potential both for them – as they take on new, unexpected, and rewarding challenges.