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Job descriptions: we use them for a wide variety of HR activities

From recruitment, selection, evaluation, coaching, performance and assessment to compensation and development. But are they still useful in today's dynamic work context?

From function to role?

Job descriptions are characterized by their static job content, fixed frameworks, sharply defined responsibilities and authority. They focus on structure and clarity. But as soon as the job description is on paper, reality has often overtaken it.

Thinking and working in roles focuses on today's need for flexibility. It provides support for development, professionalization and team composition. It takes individual talents into account. It helps team members work and perform in a self-managing way with fewer hierarchical layers. Moreover, roles are a means to be more customer-oriented. Examples of roles include: coach, project leader, expert, innovator, instructor, account manager, etc.

Functions or roles? Functions and roles!

A pointless discussion. This is an 'and' not an 'or' story. The job description remains meaningful: a means of creating clarity, a basis for hiring, development, compensation and collaboration. A cornerstone to build your organization on. Roles are also more dynamic, ensuring flexibility, self-direction and commitment to talents. The trick is to use the best of both, within the context of your own organization.



1 permanent position that says in 1 word what you do, and that everyone understands.

A coherent set of tasks that has a clear contribution to the outcome of a (part of) the organization (e.g. advising, realizing).

Nicely delineated, check-off tasks in a job profile that is the same for everyone.

A role is a fairly defined piece of a process/task within a team.

Doorgaans 1 functie per persoon.

Usually 1 function per person.

All functions together form a unified and hierarchical organizational chart.

A role is tied to a work process and is not directly linked to hierarchy. You represent the organizational structure in processes.

From functions, you think more hierarchically. Growth and development mean responsibility over more people and €

You grow horizontally, with more responsibility through a and skill.

Job description / competency / procedure / top-down / task sheets/...

Roles / talents / development models / co-creation /...

Above all, clarify the job, function, role...

Four basic pillars are necessary to achieve an environment of mutual engagement.

Employees want:

  1. An environment that makes maximum use of their knowledge, skills and talents;

  2. Proper compensation and genuine appreciation for their efforts and results;

  3. A positive working atmosphere in a framework that supports and encourages them.

  4. A valuable and clear job, function, role, assignment, responsibility; Clear job descriptions help build trust and commitment.

Tips for daily use

  • Prepare one standard template of a job description.

  • Describe the 'chair' and not the person sitting on the chair.

  • Use concrete and consistent wording: appropriate verbs that recur consistently in all job descriptions.

  • 'Quality over quantity': limit the number of areas of responsibility.

  • Integrate thinking in roles in job descriptions.

  • Make a clear distinction between hard skills (knowledge, experience, degree, etc.) and soft skills (competencies, behavior).

  • Provide room for personal input from the job holder: make a job description a conversation instrument. At least once a year, discuss the purpose, responsibilities, requirements and evolutions in the job package.

  • Share job descriptions within the organization. Give employees insight into how the organization works, who is responsible for what, and ensure that the job descriptions and roles described are shared and available.

  • Be dynamic and relevant with the descriptions. Don't hold them in stone for a long time. Does anything change in the organization; do employees perform new tasks as they go; do different job assignments, requirements arise ... look critically, tune in and, where relevant, engage in dialogue again and again.

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