Tear up your Job Descriptions!

We live in a changing world – just look around and change is everywhere.


Changing demographics, generational differences and expectations, and skills shortages are all impacting on the world of work. From an employment point of view, we are seeing increasing trends around an end to ‘permanent’ roles, with increased flexibility and a rise in portfolio careers.

Businesses are less predictable and need more flexibility.

Old jobs are disappearing and new jobs emerging – and at least 1 in 3 current roles won’t exist in 20 years’ time.

The resulting challenge to business is that the best talent is in demand – and knows it!

The best people need a reason to join your business, and a reason to stay – so marketing of roles is key. We need to paint a picture of success and build a great story that people want to be part of.

And yet many organisations still use Job Descriptions to ‘sell’ their roles – without really considering what the documents say about their culture and approach!

In the most innovative organisations, job descriptions are minimal or non-existent, because things change so quickly and unexpectedly.

New people join knowing that a large part of their role is undefined, and they work out how to ‘customise’ their roles so they’re personally satisfying and useful to the team. Result – they’re more engaged and productive, and likely to stay longer.

If this is a step too far – what about using Success Profiles?

Most jobs don’t consist of an inflexible set of actions, carried out robotically – unless you’re a robot, and that’s a different article!

Job content in the main is dynamic, responsive to others around you, and bound up in the results it delivers.

So, for example, a salesperson’s job isn’t to talk to prospective customers, but to bring more money into the business; and an engineer’s job isn’t to create technical plans, but to solve problems. If you need to set out a list of the tasks to be carried out, have you really recruited the right person?

A Success Profile – brief and often presented diagrammatically – replaces lists of accountabilities, responsibilities and duties, and defines a role through achievements and successes. For example:

  • What will I need to Achieve? – What 6-8 things will a person achieve in the role to be labelled a success after e.g. 6 months or a year?
  • How Do I measure my Success – Quantify this clearly e.g. ‘Increase product sales by 10% in Year 1’, or ‘Migrate us to a new operating system’.
  • What will Success lead to? – If the role comes with prospects, include them. Again, be specific. Where could a high performer end up after two years? What heights have previous postholders gone on to?

So, take a close look at your Job Descriptions – what do they say about you and your business?

Will they attract the talent you need to succeed? And if not, why not tear them up and start again?