As I am reading the last chapter of the Corporate Rebels’ book, the story of the software development company Nearsoft, that decided to organize work without job descriptions reminded me an recent conversation. A senior HR executive was explaining how in his company, managers added a sentence or a task to job descriptions for the sole purpose of justifying a pay raise or an increase in job grade, and how this behavior jeopardized the new job level system recently implemented.
His frustration sounded familiar to me. This is one of the numerous issues that can be generated by job descriptions. A job description is a static document, it requires regular maintenance to follow organizational developments else it quickly becomes obsolete; an exercise which may end up in a cumbersome administration process with little value to the business. I’ve come across job descriptions of several pages including long lists of tasks and requirements with the consequence of locking people in a box, playing against job flexibility and initiative taking.
Does it mean that companies should stop writing job descriptions? Is “job crafting” the best solution, i.e. letting employees decide on their job content according to their preferences and competencies? This approach may certainly prove valuable for new born companies integrating freedom in their culture from the start; for more traditional businesses, less radical solutions can be implemented.
An alternative to job descriptions is to write simple job profiles including essential elements. Role profiles can turn into a very useful tool and support organizational changes, as they are then used to map the current workforce to the target organization model, identify gaps and promote the core values
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