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Why classic job descriptions are a thing of the past


Max Hesse - September 11, 2018 - 0 comments

The way we use technology is constantly innovating around us, so too is the way we organise ourselves internally. Metrics are becoming more transparent and a change in working methods to work smarter not harder is on the rise. However, there are certain areas of the human resources sphere that are long overdue some reassessment. We’re talking about the classic job description.

Ok, let’s do a little experiment:

Think about the length of your tenure in your current company. How many years or months have you been working for your current employer? What levels on the career ladder have you passed through?

Now think of the following:

  • Do you still remember what it says word for word in the job description in your employee contract?
  • Do you know what are the different tasks or areas that you in your company were initially hired for?
  • Do you actually know what you are accountable for in your department?
  • Do you also know all the different topics that you are apparently expected to do or fulfill on an implicit basis?

If you can say yes to all of these questions: Congratulations, you belong to the very small minority of employees that knows what they and others can actually expect of their job.

Quite possibly you belong to the other group though. A large group of people that don’t have a clear overview of what is expected of them, especially as we are now all working in a fast paced world that is changing constantly and that requires adjustment of our work on an ongoing basis.

And this lack of clarity creates tension. A lot of it. This tension leads to frustration. Frustration to unhappiness. Unhappiness to disengagement. And disengagement again to stress and more tension.

Imagine a situation where it’s unclear if a certain task should be done by you or your colleague because the task does not fit to neither of your job descriptions. Most likely your supervisor will take this subjective decision for you which means that you are excluded from this decision making.

To break out of this circle and regain control you need to get clarity. Clarity about your responsibilities and also clarity about the expectations that your colleagues and your managers have of you.

So let’s take 4 steps to quickly gain back some control:

Firstly, write down all your separate tasks that you do on a day to day basis.

Secondly, write down all the projects that originate from these ongoing activities.

Thirdly, cluster the ongoing activities and projects around a common reason or purpose, as their must be a reason or a need in the team or company for these actions to be fulfilled.

Lastly, create a name for each of these clusters to obtain a better overview.

Perfect.

You now have created several groupings of responsibilities that have a common purpose and name. You have successfully created roles, as we call them in our self-managed environment, that give us the transparency and understanding of what needs to be done within a team or company to achieve a common goal. Roles also make the implicit explicit and thus give you the opportunity to now use the tools in your company to develop the aforementioned expectations of your roles on an ongoing basis.

Great.

Do you feel less stressed yet? Only when we make our expectations explicit they become manageable and also changeable by you or your manager.

What to do next?

Since you have now gained clarity about your roles, be bold and talk about it. Maybe you can inspire one of your co-workers to follow by letting them know that by gaining transparency on who is responsible for what the whole team is better of. This transparency might seem daunting at first because there is no “hiding behind job titles” anymore. At the same time, the explicitness you get will also release a lot of energy amongst your colleagues because implicity and ambiguity is mentally exhausting. Let’s take the next step, spread the word and always remember: Only by yourself you are a lone nut. But with one follower you become a leader who can gain momentum. Momentum leads to more followers and a growing followership is news to the rest of the team and your superior. Consequently also your manager might say soon: “You are right, job descriptions are a thing of the past.”

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