Tata Motors is doing away with designations to create a flatter organisation. Bringing down levels from 14 to five means 10,000 senior vice-presidents, vice-presidents, general managers, deputy general managers, among others will be stripped of their ranks. The more austere, and ambiguous, indicator of rank, “head”, will grace the visiting cards of managers with a team reporting to them, with the function/department printed after. For an individual contributor, the erasure is near-complete—she will be using just her function/department after her name. The intent sure is noble—according to The Economic Times, to “create a mindset free of designations and hierarchy” that will get employees to “focus on work instead of their designations”. A non-hierarchical workplace sure sounds good on paper. Very equitable, very encouraging of team play. But there are only three problems with this, and none of them modest. How is an employee to communicate the rank at which her involvement is in the company to an outsider? With designation-metric trimmed, pay-grades would be the next best indicator, but everyone and their mother know how indelicate that is. The employee may then direct any real world queries about her role to her LinkedIn page, or better still carry prints of her detailed profile. “No designations” means moving on to a different company becomes that much more difficult.
The poor recruiter wouldn’t have the slightest clue—except for, may be, the years of experience, though this will not always be a sound indicator—of the professional level reached. But these are lesser problems. Cutting past the spiel, no ranks actually mean lesser motivation within the company—designations tell an employee apart from her co-workers, and are one of the carrots for working harder and smarter. Thinned the Tata Motors way, there may actually be lesser incentive.