Let’s Get Rid of Traditional Job Descriptions

What’s your job? Does it match the description? Does it make the best use of your skills and talents? Does your job diverge dramatically from the role you actually do to generate value for the organization?

Here’s the question – do we need job descriptions? More specifically, do we need job descriptions in the way we construct them today? Think about your own job description. Typically it’s a list of tactical activities, followed by the usual “other duties as assigned”. Most job descriptions are filled with broad-sweeping, vague terminology coupled with incredibly specific tactics.

For example, take this job description for a product marketing manager:

“Responsible for all messaging and assets to support demand generation, field-enablement, and customer marketing activity.”

Then, take this description of the same job’s responsibilities:

“Build product awareness through article placements and social media postings.”

The description, if translated into something easy to digest, focuses on the role of crafting, implementing, and testing marketing messaging. However, the responsibilities focus specifically on writing promotional articles and posting on social media.

Does any of this actually reflect the role needing to be fulfilled?

If we shift our mentality from ‘filling a job’ to ‘serving a role’, it changes the dialogue dramatically. Let’s take this example and apply it through a ‘role’ lens. If thinking about this job as a role, the focus changes from tactics to organizational objectives. This eliminates assumptions on tactics and places what the organization wants accomplished front and center.

Here’s an example of how to shift focus to the role and objectives:

“Seeking someone skilled in crafting and implementing a differentiating approach to engaging customers and salespersons through communications, tailored to their specific needs, reaching them where they are, and in ways which shorten the sales cycle and increase share of wallet.”

Isn’t this the real objective the organization wants to achieve? Making social media postings is a tactic – one which may not be effective or even valuable to the target audiences. By describing what you want to achieve with the role, it helps the individual understand the bigger purpose behind it. The ‘job’ is making marketing materials. The ‘role’ is to shorten the sales cycle.

This approach also takes into consideration individual talents and skills which might not be in a traditional job description. With a broader, more objective-based focus, individuals with tangental skills such as sales or consumer psychology could be considered.

Keeping things open to interpretation helps you focus on what you really want – outcomes that impact the organization’s growth. Of course, you may say there are roles that are purely administrative, but I’d argue that’s not the case. Each and every role should contribute to the growth or profitability of the company.

Isn’t that the real job?

About the Author

Andrea Olson is a speaker, author, behavioral scientist, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO of Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of The Customer Mission: Why it’s time to cut the $*&% and get back to the business of understanding customers and No Disruptions: The future for mid-market manufacturing.

She is a 4-time ADDY® award winner and host of the popular Customer Mission podcast. Her thoughts have been continually featured in news sources such as Chief Executive MagazineEntrepreneur MagazineThe Financial BrandIndustry Week, and more. Andrea is a sought-after keynote speaker at conferences and corporate events throughout the world. She is a visiting lecturer and Director of the Startup Business Incubator at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, a TEDx presenter, and TEDx speaker coach. She is also a mentor at the University of Iowa Venture School.

More information is also available on www.pragmadik.com and www.andreabelkolson.com.

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