It’s Time to Eliminate Job Descriptions and Focus on Skills, Education and Experience

Companies place too much emphasis on job descriptions, which can be very limiting, not only for new applicants but also for current employees.

Often, companies focus on hiring people who match a job description. In theory, that makes sense, but sometimes, overly focusing on fulfilling the requirements of a role creates rigidity and both employees and companies can benefit from a more flexible model.

Since many employees are in a particular job because their previous job experience or education matches the posted job description, they often remain in similar or specific functions, giving them little room to expand their expertise. Essentially, they are typecasted. In turn, companies often wind up with highly specialized staff whose focus is narrow and limited.

While having employees who have expertise in one area does add some value, there are several issues with typecasting employees:

  • It slows or prevents innovation and creation of new products and services.
  • It does little to encourage personal and professional development, as some think there is no reason for an employee to learn something new if they are never going to use it.
  • It increases the rate of boredom, burnout and attrition, resulting in the need to hire new employees and increasing the cost of maintaining staff levels.
  • It creates the need to hire in order to fill staffing needs, rather than using or refocusing existing employees.

When employees are able to work in one area while gaining expertise in another (higher level, similar or different), it not only makes the workforce better equipped for change and better able to create or support products and services, it also makes internal project and team staffing easier. Further, it enhances the employee’s professional development, making them more loyal to the company, limiting or preventing burnout, and reducing overall hiring costs.

Replacing the Job Description with an Intelligent Employee Profile

Instead of focusing on job descriptions, companies can shift the focus to skills needed to perform tasks or complete projects. Having an intelligent employee profile can help with that new focus.

An intelligent employee profile would be a central place where not only an employee’s jobs and compensation are tracked, but information from other databases and applications are continually updated, creating a composite picture of each employee which includes education, current assignments, career path planning, and more. A successfully designed intelligent profile system can do several things:

  • In addition to being able to query skills, education and experience, it can also interact with other databases (project management, time management, calendar, etc.) to successfully coordinate project and team staffing needs.
  • It can be designed to evaluate possible placements for a particular project or team and if no internal employee is available it can initiate an external search.
  • It can be tied to feedback and professional development applications to not only suggest new development opportunities but also to update the employee database when training is complete.

There are many other factors that would impact or be impacted by replacing job descriptions with an intelligent employee profile. Adjustments may need to be made to compensation models, job titles, job levels and the focus of management. This will take time to transition as it impacts so many other pieces to the employee’s life cycle. Eventually however, if this is designed well, it could eliminate the need for companies to focus on job descriptions and place more focus on skills, experience and education.

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