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Role Profiles – Why can’t we get them right?

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I absolutely despair sometimes at the quality – or should I say lack of quality – of some of the Role Profiles that I get to see.  Why can’t we get this right?

A Role needs to be defined so that people can be recruited, developed, and coached to perform.  A Role Profile needs to let incumbents know what is expected of them in terms of outcomes and value add to the organisation.

I was recently asked to review a Job Description (and I use the “old” term Job Description deliberately) for the purpose of benchmarking.  This particular Job Description listed 16 different “responsibilities”.  Of those 16, just 3 actually had anything to do with the job – and then very vaguely outlined.  The other 13 were corporate mumbo-jumbo which should just never be included in a Role Profile.  Space-fillers!  It was virtually impossible to know, from the Job Description, what value any incumbent was actually supposed to be delivering between 9 and 5.

Then, as I was writing this, a research paper just dropped in my inbox.  The 2019 State of Job Descriptions research undertaken by HRSG.  The findings of this research helped me to better understand why the quality of Role Profiles is so poor.  I created this table to help clarify the problem.

What the research found What should happen
60% of Job Descriptions are created when there is a need to hire someone.  In other words, most Job Descriptions are only created when there is a pressing need to create them. Roles (not jobs) are a fundamental building block in the workforce architecture of the organisation.  They provide “flesh” to the “bones” of the organisation structure.  They should relate to a Capability that the organisation identified as a need to deliver its strategy and goals.  They are strategic documents.
37% of respondents said that not every position in their organisation has a job description Every role identified in the structure of the organisation needs to be defined so that people can be recruited, developed, promoted, and performance coached against an organisational requirement.  This is the very purpose of a Role Profile.
43% of respondents don’t regularly update Job Descriptions, and a further 44% update infrequently In a dynamic world, flexibility is key.  Roles and Role Profiles need to be maintained as critical input to the organisation’s ability to attract and retain top talent.  As demands change, so these definitions need to change to reflect the latest demands.
61% of respondents said that it takes longer than an hour to create a Job Descriptions.  What is more frightening, 11% claim that they create Job Profiles in under 30 minutes. To do the job properly takes time.  Why waste valuable internal resource time when you can hire experts in the specific field to do the job for you.  Creating Role Profiles internally costs money – the time of the person doing the job and the opportunity cost of them not doing other necessary work.  Get subject matter experts on a retainer to keep your Role Profiles up to date – it’s worth the cost and you’ll get a better quality “product”.
What is amusing is how people create Job Descriptions.  94% report that they get information from a combination of internal expert (58%), internet search (50%), other companies job boards (40% -seriously?), and some personal creativity (38%). Role Profiles today need to be defined based on the outcomes expected, and the competencies needed to deliver those outcomes in each organisation.  Todays Role Profiles are about understanding and defining the Value Add of the specific role.  And, when used strategically, are likely to be different for each organisation.  It’s part of the organisation’s Employee Value Proposition.
Nearly 80% of respondents report that they maintain their Job Descriptions using Word (or similar) documents. Role Profiles need to be held in a repository where they can be easily referenced, the latest version can be easily identified, multiple versions can be maintained (for IR and other purposes), and they can be immediately available when needed for recruiting.  There are many systems available today – from Document Management Systems, to specific systems like our own ITJobCompiler™.

So, now we understand a few things.  We understand why recruiting takes such a long time and is often costly and doesn’t attract the right candidates.  We understand why Talent Management can be so problematic in organisations – it’s basic building block is in a mess.  And we understand how Job Descriptions can end up being of such poor quality.

As a basic building block for the important role of managing the organisation’s “most important asset”, I think we should be doing a far better job of it.  But hey … that’s just me.


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Contact us to find out how we can work with you to implement Agile HR in your organisation.