There are two types of roles in a business: ones that take you farther and ones that take you further.
Bear with me here.
When structuring roles in your company, you’ve got an opportunity to do one of two things: on one hand, you can build a basis for an employee to explore, refine & expand their own position in a particular skill. These are general technical positions — think sales, programming, etc. These are the roles that take employees farther — they enable a very surface-level career growth, strictly along skill lines.
On the other hand, you can structure your roles not around particular skills but around business areas. Hiring people to take ownership of some pillar of your business — whether it’s a market, a technology, an underlying value — and deep diving into it. Rather than focusing a person’s attention on being, say, an engineer, their focus and company identity is refocused around the business goals they’re solving.
Both types of roles have their benefits (and really, many roles have some mix of both), and fundamentally your business needs to accommodate a mix of both. Ultimately though, roles that are built to take one farther generally end up in folks moving on from your company — there’s a skill ceiling to any role, and beyond that point, there’s little you can do to accommodate further leveling up.
On the other hand, roles that take folks further are the ones that form the pillar of your company. These are the lifers, the ones who stick around for half a decade, a decade or more, and pick up a PhD in the minutiae and finer points of some business aspect. These are the ones who drive your business forward, the foundations on which you 10x your growth.
Most companies have too many roles that take you farther, and not enough that take you further.
I know what you’re thinking: “Alright, that’s just peachy Ari, so what now? Do I just scatter the words farther or further a bunch of times in my job posts?”
Ultimately, the way to make use of this dichotomy is to rethink the way you see a “role”. Rather than hiring for specific roles, the best companies are those that (for at least some part of their hiring budget) hire generalists. I don’t mean the tacky startup thing of hiring “hustlers” — I mean they focus less on skills-based jobs and more on ownership.
Rather than hiring a strong technologist, hire someone with the eagerness to take ownership of a particular business domain who also happens to have those technological skills. Rather than hiring an engineer and then assigning them to a cross-functional team later, hire for a specific team right from the get go.
When you take that approach, you start attracting folks who aren’t just interested in leveling up their particular skills — you find people who are actually inspired by the business problems you’re trying to solve.
And while you might find yourself compromising slightly on skill, it’s generally more than made up for in dedication & results.