Does your company need job descriptions?
March 08, 2012
Job descriptions are often taken for granted. In many ways, they are the channels through which HR people recruit and vet job candidates. They are also used to guide the training and employee development process.
But how much do job descriptions restrain talent? Does your company have overly rigid or complicated job descriptions that prevent your employees from being creative or moving beyond their core duties? This scenario is surprisingly common yet difficult to diagnose. It's not the most obvious source of creative stagnation.
"Innovation and creativity aren’t about following rules but challenging them," points out Margaret Heffernan for Inc. magazine. "So which message is more important: obedience or innovation? If you try to send both at once, you can't blame people if they're confused."
"Every time you describe a job, you prescribe areas of thought and innovation," Heffernan adds. "Every time you tell someone what their job is, you’re also telling them what it is not."
That's why some companies, such as equipment manufacturer Gripple, have removed job descriptions from their workplace. To go even further, the company also got rid of fixed work hours and schedules, instead trusting employees to manage their own time accordingly. There's a sense of personal empowerment and responsibility that Gripple adheres to, citing this as central to their innovative and creative capacities.
"We had one guy who, before he joined us, explained he'd booked a vacation. So that was fine. But then he came in and asked for a form. What for? We don't have any forms," Gripple CEO Hugh Facey told Inc. "We think it's everyone's job to do their best, work hard and get along with everyone. That's it.”
If your company is suffering from a creative rut, it may help to look at existing structures. Hierarchies, tight schedules, rules, regulations, compliance - these things tend to weigh down an organization's innovative edge. While they may sometimes be necessary, it's important to find a balance between the demands of innovation and the interests of traditional management.
As Heffernan explains, "the best way to get people to behave like adults is to treat them that way."