Job Descriptions: A dead end or a road map?

Job descriptions
One of the problems with job descriptions is that they are static documents which, at best, only reflect the job as it was when it was written. In reality, jobs and roles within an organisation are fluid. In this fast-moving age with customer demands and multiple challenges, we need to react quickly to changing circumstances.

And that means our focus, our activities and our jobs are going to change, perhaps multiple times. Employees who complain, ‘This isn’t in my job description’ are going to hold us back or be left behind.

The job description tells us what the job looked like at a moment in time. And we fill it with job titles and with tasks that an employee is expected to do – the very things that change regularly and (often) rapidly.

Yesterday’s tasks vs end result
If employees merely fulfil yesterday’s tasks, they and the organisation will stagnate. Far more important is to ask what the end result should look like? What is the employee expected to achieve?

An office administrator, for example, is expected to ‘do the filing’. But what for? What is the desired result of filing? As one administrator put it: ‘Documents must be safe, readily available and easily found.’
Suddenly, it’s not about filing; it’s about retrieval.

When valet-parking attendants at Town Park in the USA realised their job was not about parking cars but about retrieving them, their focus was changed. They looked for (and found) innovative ways to reduce car-retrieval times, to the great delight of their clients. And they didn’t need their managers to tell them what to do.

Start with the end in mind
Turn your job descriptions on their heads starting, as Stephen Covey put it, ‘with the end in mind.’ What should it look like when the job is done?


Contact Simply Communicate (click here) to help your team work on what really matters, and revolutionise your job descriptions.


Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people and HR & people-management consulting.

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