Strategic Human Capital Insights

Why Job Descriptions Should be at the Center of Your Organization


Businesswoman pointing at a growing chart during a meeting in the meeting roomWhy do organizations invest time and effort into continuous process improvement and stop there? When the responsibility for continuous process improvement is driven by people, shouldn’t there also be an aligned Human Asset Continuous Improvement Loop for the people who drive the process?


How often do the following questions come up?

  • Why aren’t my people coming up with solutions to problems they encounter?
  • Why can’t employees see beyond the next step?
  • Why isn’t the quality control / assurance function as proactive as it should be?
  • What has happened to the disappearing skills of:
    • Trend Spotting?
    • Problem Identification?
    • Problem Solving?
    • Critical Thinking?
  • Why aren’t people planning, recommending and thinking about business impact analysis?


Enterprise Thinking: The New Business Skills  

Our fast-paced, changing world, requires that an increasing number of employees demonstrate the above knowledge and skills in order to meet the challenges of the today’s business environment.  We are expecting that employees, working far lower than the executive suite, should be able to demonstrate these skills. In fact, we are expecting that even the lowest level employee should demonstrate a degree of these skills. As businesses grow and adapt to change, these skills are required at every level in the organization as it competes in a very dynamic marketplace. 

If you have ever considered or been frustrated by these questions, either one or all of them, you need to evaluate your current employees against a new set of job and role criteria. And that’s where the job description plays a fundamental role. It should:

  • Be progressive, future focused and continuous
  • Reside in the business units where work gets done
  • Be dynamic, developmental, upskilling and prevent skill obsolescence
  • Forecast human capital capacity
  • Align with growth and productivity
  • Strive for more winners


Dynamic Job Descriptions: Just How Detailed Should They Be?

Today, job descriptions can no longer just reside in a file within HR.  In addition to HR, the job description should reside in, be developed by, and be managed by the operating department where the work is done. Therefore, the job description should truly and deeply define the job for the sake of the job and the goals of the department rather than be used as an administrative function by HR.  I am often asked how detailed should the job description be?  And when is too much detail, too much? 

If the job description is meant to describe the job, then it needs as much detail as possible. Why? Make sure the job description is aligned with the organization’s strategy and business initiatives and not written for the person who may already be in the role. Job descriptions should be aspirational and aligned to company goals and not written to accommodate the incumbent employee. Job descriptions should include the following:

  • Summary of the Job – (a real and current one)
  • Reporting Relationship (hierarchy)
  • Critical Organizational Interactions (the dynamic matrix organization)
  • Routine Work
  • Non-Routine Work
  • Stretch Tasks, If Appropriate
  • Competencies
    • Hard Skills
    • Soft Skills
  • Knowledge
  • Business Acumen, Enterprise Thinking and Business Skills
  • Date to Review the Job Description


Robust, Dynamic Job Descriptions

For a job description to be robust and dynamic, it must be reflected in a current organization chart which will define its role and define accountability. The organization chart should reflect the strategic goals and business initiatives, so therefore, driven by current business strategy. 

Job descriptions should be used for the following processes:

  • Interviewing and Hiring
  • Performance Review
  • Employee Development Plans
  • Human Capital Gap Analysis
  • Complete the Continuous Improvement Loop Back to Human Capital Alignment and Business Strategy


At the Center of It All

As you can see, the job description is right in the middle of all these processes and if they are not done well or are not as responsive as they should be, they impact everything else. Download our full presentation on the strategic role of the job description that we recently presented to the Arizona Commerce Authority. In this presentation you will see how robust job descriptions can optimize your organization's process, products and people.

Download Your Copy of the Job Description Presentation

Topics: Human Resources, Organizational Alignment & Effectiveness, Human Asset Management

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

In 2014, Joanne Flynn founded Phoenix Strategic Performance, a strategic human capital advisory firm. Prior to this, Joanne was Vice President at Goldman Sachs for 10 years responsible for global learning and development. She then led the consulting practice of Phoenix Group International, a consulting firm specializing in global financial service. Joanne is now taking best practices from the people-intensive financial services industry and adapting those best practices to startup and growth businesses. She is a thought leader in the areas of strategic organizational alignment, organizational agility, human capital gap analysis, leadership challenges for the new workplace and transformation leadership.

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