This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

May 16, 2000

Job Descriptions Will Become Obsolete

229 Days until January 1, 2001

For many years, employers have proscribed job descriptions for each of their workers. Human resource professionals have emphasized that job descriptions are essential. Most of the reasons were associated with administrative law issues or simply assuring that the employee-and the employee's supervisor-knew what to expect.

Job descriptions, although they included the ubiquitous phrase, "and all other duties as assigned," are still relatively rigid and limiting. The statements about duties delineate what the incumbent should do-and not do. While the "not-do" statements are not explicit, the understanding is that employees should not be doing things that are not specified in their job descriptions.

The bureaucratic rigidity of corporate life is clearly threatened by the many changes resulting from workforce and workplace trends. Employers today are not blessed with an abundance of workers to assign to fixed jobs with little flexibility. With fewer people to do more work, success today requires a high level of flexibility. Employers need freedom to assign people where they need them, even perhaps to fulfill the responsibilities of several jobs at once. Employees, on the other hand, also want flexibility. Many of them clearly don't want limits placed on what they can do, what they can learn, and how they can grow within the organization.

Job descriptions will disappear. . . in spite of resistance from traditionalists and unions. In their place, we may see "role descriptions." These statements will be very broad, simply confirming that all employees are expected to help the employer meet its goals and earn a profit. Workers will be expected to pitch in wherever they are needed, to develop several specialties, and to do whatever it takes to serve customers-both internal and external.

These statements will reflect the movement away from job classifications and differentiations in the workplace. Perhaps this shift is an extension of the diversity focus-valuing people for what they can do, not who they are or who they have been. Watch for greater concentration on the development of competencies, with pay and assignments based on what people can actually do.

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