Are Your Job Descriptions Hurting Engagement?

Posted on April 17, 2015 by Don MacPherson.

Do you have any “prisoners” among your workforce? These are the employees who are disengaged but who have little motivation to either improve or find another job.

Your job descriptions may be bringing your engagement down. Role clarity and expectations are key to strong engagement levels. But rather than writing out elaborate job descriptions that list every possible task an employee may have to do, employers should show the intent of the tasks and how they fit into the organization’s larger goals, says Kelly Riggs, of Business Lockerroom.

In some cases, people and roles get conflated, says Paul White, of Appreciation at Work. If someone is confronted with a task, you might hear, “Joe doesn’t do that,” White says. What is more important is whether it is a task the CFO must do. And if Joe is the CFO, the task is his, White says.

Role clarity often ties in with clear company values and long-term goals, as well. When the intent of the position is clear, and when an employee sees how that role embodies company values and helps build long-term goals, employees can better understand whether they are a good fit for the role.

Ray Gagnon, of Gagnon Associates, says that when employees are not clear on what their roles are and how their own initiatives can make a difference, it is difficult to make the changes needed to align them with company goals. But once you explain what you want them to do and how it leads to a better business future for all, small victories on the individual level can build momentum for business success.

Gagnon says he worked with a bank that had a large goal of providing world-class service. This bank took seven to 10 days to replace lost or stolen debit cards, which, he says, is not a strong example of world-class service. As part of looking into the process, they got the dozen or so people involved in the card replacement process together with a facilitator to do some process mapping exercises.

As the ones involved in the replacement process, they were the experts, Gagnon says. And when the group was instructed to shave time off the replacement process, the members found ways to bring it down to three to five days.

The department had been completing the task of replacing cards before, but when its members were shown the intent of delivering world-class service, they rose to the occasion and made it happen.

“Imagine you’re one of those 12 people,” Gagnon says. “You know that you’ve just contributed to customer satisfaction, to saving the bank money. You’re a star. You’re a team that everybody knows about in the bank.” The company now holds a couple of these process meetings every year, and Gagnon says people come to HR asking to be involved.

When your job descriptions show how each position is expected to contribute to the organization’s larger goals, employees will have a clearer picture of where they fit in the system and how their efforts can contribute to success. If you simply list possible tasks, you risk disengagement.

Learn more ways to re-engage employees. Download our new white paper, Dealing with “Prisoners” in the Workplace.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Blog Archive