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How to Make Job Descriptions more “Agile”!

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Agile is not a set of rules, it’s a set of principles and a different way of thinking.  Agile is about smaller deliverables more often.  It’s about shorter decision cycles and “smaller” decisions.  It’s about less, more often.

If I think about Job Descriptions in the past, everything except the kitchen sink was thrown into the Job Description.  The organisation structure, the reporting structure, a detailed list of tasks, mostly unreasonable qualifications, unmeasurable, and mostly unmeasured, KPIs, lists of unassessable, and mostly unassessed, competencies.

With ways of working changing faster than ever before, it’s no wonder that trying to keep Job Descriptions up-to-date, relevant, and accurate has become an almost impossible task.  Especially with all the other changes happening in the “people” space in organisations today.

How do we introduce “agility” into this space?

Actually, it’s not that difficult.  Firstly we need to separate.  We need to consider what NEEDS to be in the Job Description, and what can be contained in other documents.  For instance:

  • The organisation and reporting structure should be contained in a separate structure chart which can be separately maintained – allowing structure changes without having to change Job Descriptions.
  • The detailed list of tasks is not necessary.  When process improvements happen, and with automation happening at an increasing speed, this list of tasks becomes very quickly outdated.  Detailed processes should be contained in a separate “procedures” document which becomes part of “institutional knowledge” and can be changed, when necessary, without having to change Job Descriptions.
  • In today’s fast-changing world, experience and certification are starting to outweigh qualification – except in some professional fields obviously.  In the professions, people have to accumulate CPD (continuing professional development) points annually.  This is not the case with undergraduate qualifications.  As a result, five years on, most people are doing something completely different to their qualification.  The Competency Framework should be the guide for eligibility without having to change Job Descriptions.
  • KPIs should be the link between organisational goals and individual output.  They should be both measurable and measured so that they provide an accurate link between individual performance and organisational performance.  KPIs should be managed in a separate system, such as the OKR Framework, so that Job Descriptions don’t have to be updated when priorities change in the organisation.
  • Competencies should be in a separate Competency Profile that can be updated as and when necessary, rather than having to change Job Descriptions.  Competencies need to be assessable and assessed as part of employee development and development paths should be clearly articulated.

What SHOULD be included in Agile Job Descriptions

The elements that are included in the Job Description should be those that cannot be found elsewhere that are directly job-related.  The important elements of Job Descriptions are:

  • A clear concise Job Title – it’s “fashionable” to give funky titles these days, but the actual Job Title should be understandable, clear, and unambiguous.  You can give the “funky” title as a kind of “nickname” if you like.
  • The Job Level – this communicates the level at which the incumbent is expected to perform as well as the remuneration band.
  • A Purpose statement – giving a broad outline of the overall purpose of the job and its significance to the organisation
  • The Responsibilities – a list of no more than 5 or 6 responsibilities for which the incumbents will be responsible.  For instance, “keeping management informed of progress”.  This can be via a report or an automated system, but the responsibility remains the same.
  • The Expected Outcomes – a list of Outcomes, not Outputs, that the job will deliver.  For instance, producing a report is an Output, not an Outcome.  Outcomes are the results that the job is intended to deliver, and these are what need to be measured for performance purposes.  For instance, “all relevant people are informed of weekly progress”.  The “relevant people”, or positions, are listed in the “procedures” document.
  • Prior Knowledge and Experience – the knowledge and experience that is expected for someone entering this position.  This can include a list of specific technologies, if necessary.
  • Competency List and Level of Competence – the details of the competencies are contained in the Competency Profile
  • Special Conditions – such as, it is necessary to carry heavy objects, which might preclude, without prejudice, people from being able to perform in the job.
  • Person Profile – information and characteristics of the person that will do best in this role.  For instance: attention to detail, analytical, able to work in a team, etc.

Agile is Easier

Maintaining a few more files less frequently is a lot easier than trying to keep all Job Descriptions up-to-date all the time.  This is how you make it Agile.

Yes, you have more files to maintain, but some are being maintained anyway and then copied into the Job Description (organisation chart), some don’t need to be maintained that often (competencies), and some are being maintained by others (procedures and performance agreements) so free up busy HR time.

Going agile just makes sense.

If you would like some advice and assistance on making your Job Description maintenance more agile and easier to maintain, please email me and I’ll be in touch directly.  Alternatively, feel free to set up time in my calendar for a Zoom or Meet chat.

I look forward to working with you.

Gail Sturgess
Agile OD Facilitator/Coach/Consultant
We provide modern Organisation Development advice, solutions, services, and products, at the intersection of business, technology, and people, to help our clients adopt and adapt to the New Ways of Working – Agile, Digital, Work-from-Anywhere – and become Future Fit.  We’d love to work with you too.