Job de­scrip­tions, or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­ture need reg­u­lar re­view

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

WHEN was the last time your com­pany’s job de­scrip­tions and or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­ture were re­viewed? Typ­i­cally, these im­por­tant or­ga­ni­za­tional el­e­ments aren’t seen as pri­or­ity items un­less new lead­ers join the or­ga­ni­za­tion and look at things from fresh eyes. The re­sult is that years will go by be­fore prob­lems are rec­og­nized as se­ri­ous enough to take ac­tion.

Yet, job de­scrip­tions and re­port­ing struc­ture are es­sen­tially the back­bone of or­ga­ni­za­tions. Job de­scrip­tions in­form em­ploy­ees of their tasks, how much time to spend on those tasks and who su­per­vises their work. Re­port­ing struc­tures on the other hand, im­pact how we com­mu­ni­cate, who we talk to, who we lis­ten to and who has the author­ity to di­rect em­ploy­ees to com­plete spe­cific tasks. Job de­scrip­tions and struc­ture help to for­mu­late where de­ci­sions are made, how teams in­ter­act, how work flows be­tween the dif­fer­ent func­tions and how ser­vices and/or prod­ucts are fi­nally made.

A poor struc­ture can lit­er­ally crip­ple an or­ga­ni­za­tion if there are too many lev­els of bu­reau­cracy and/or if the struc­ture is so fluid that each depart­ment works in­de­pen­dently but per­haps not to­ward the same goals. The re­sult could be in­ter­de­part­men­tal lead­er­ship con­flict, we ver­sus them at­ti­tudes and the de­vel­op­ment of a highly sen­si­tive po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

As well, some or­ga­ni­za­tional lead­ers cling to the old-fash­ioned con­cept that big­ger is bet­ter and they strive to lead the largest num­ber of busi­ness units, the largest bud­get and the largest group of per­son­nel. The end re­sult is a struc­ture that doesn’t make sense. For in­stance, man­agers may not have the ex­per­tise to over­see some of their de­part­ments and there­fore new ideas are crushed, highly cre­ative em­ploy­ees leave and the depart­ment be­comes stale and com­pounded with low em­ployee morale.

At the same time, there are plenty of chal­lenges that can arise due to mis­align­ment of front-line jobs. Job de­scrip­tions can quickly be­come out­dated as more work and of­ten con­flict­ing as­sign­ments are sim­ply as­signed to an in­di­vid­ual with­out thought. Many times, the work tasks are ac­tu­ally out­side the scope of a job. Some­times too many tasks are as­signed to an in­di­vid­ual job and in this case in­cum­bents be­come con­fused about pri­or­i­ties and may be frus­trated by the de­mand to com­plete work that is be­yond one’s ca­pa­bil­ity for one day of work.

On the other hand, many or­ga­ni­za­tions suf­fer from “job creep.” This oc­curs when in­di­vid­ual em­ploy­ees are not held ac­count­able to fol­low their job de­scrip­tion. Thus, over time, they ne­glect ar­eas of their job de­scrip­tion that are not their favourite ac­tiv­i­ties and/or they some­how man­age to in­for­mally del­e­gate these dis­taste­ful tasks to an­other em­ployee and/or they sim­ply ig­nore them. Re­ports may not be com­pleted or files not brought up to date. In other words, the em­ployee is do­ing what they want to do rather than what they are sup­posed to be do­ing.

Poor struc­ture and poor job align­ment also im­pacts an or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pay struc­ture to such an ex­tent that many jobs will be over­paid while oth­ers will be un­der­paid. Over­all, em­ploy­ees can be­come frus­trated, dis­il­lu­sioned and stressed to the point of burnout. If or­ga­ni­za­tional lead­ers don’t take ac­tion to ex­am­ine and al­le­vi­ate these stresses, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pro­duc­tiv­ity and ef­fi­ciency will fal­ter.

The so­lu­tion to the is­sue of mis­align­ment of jobs and struc­ture is to con­duct a job anal­y­sis throughout your or­ga­ni­za­tion. This is def­i­nitely a time-con­sum­ing task but the end re­sult is a thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion of each job, time spent on tasks, how all jobs re­late to each other in the course of get­ting work done, who in­cum­bents re­port to and whether or not they are re­port­ing to more than one boss.

This type of in-depth re­view gives man­agers an op­por­tu­nity to re­ally un­der­stand what their em­ploy­ees are do­ing and to de­ter­mine if these tasks are still ap­pro­pri­ate for their cur­rent or­ga­ni­za­tion. The fol­low­ing job anal­y­sis items are typ­i­cally in­cluded in an as­sess­ment tool:

Out­line of job tasks — in­cum­bents are asked to de­scribe all of the tasks they com­plete in their job and to iden­tify the per­cent­age of time spent on each task. Here, man­agers will be able to iden­tify if an em­ployee is undertaking tasks not on a job de­scrip­tion, if time on a task is ap­pro­pri­ate or not and if the job has too many tasks for the time al­lo­cated. In ad­di­tion, the man­ager can de­ter­mine es­sen­tial ver­sus non-es­sen­tial tasks and can as­sess if the job ti­tle con­tin­ues to be valid con­sid­er­ing the job tasks as­signed.

Re­port­ing struc­ture — in­cum­bent em­ploy­ees are asked to iden­tify who they re­port to and for what pur­pose. Man­agers are then able to eval­u­ate whether the re­port­ing struc­ture makes sense, if man­agers have the tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties to en­sure ac­count­abil­ity and if any con­flicts are cre­at­ing prob­lems for the em­ployee.

Knowl­edge, skills and abil­i­ties — this el­e­ment as­sesses the level of prior ed­u­ca­tion and work ex­pe­ri­ence plus on-the-job ex­pe­ri­ence and tech­ni­cal skills re­quired for a par­tic­u­lar job. This is a par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing area as it re­quires or­ga­ni­za­tions to as­sess the bal­ance be­tween in­com­ing ed­u­ca­tional re­quire­ments ver­sus ex­pe­ri­ence on the job.

In­de­pen­dence of ac­tion — this sur­vey el­e­ment al­lows the man­ager to as­sess the level of bu­reau­cracy in the or­ga­ni­za­tion by as­sess­ing the level of au­ton­omy and in­de­pen­dence of ac­tion. Some­times it is iden­ti­fied that in­di­vid­u­als with man­age­ment ti­tles re­ally do not have suf­fi­cient author­ity which in turn could be cre­at­ing de­ci­sion bot­tle­necks in the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Na­ture of prob­lems en­coun­tered — re­view­ing the type of prob­lems en­coun­tered by in­cum­bents pro­vides the man­ager with a birds-eye view of what em­ploy­ees tackle ev­ery day. This may iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­crease re­spon­si­bil­ity or iden­tify the need for more sys­tem­atic poli­cies and pro­cesses. In ad­di­tion, the man­ager may find em­ploy­ees may be pro­vid­ing so­lu­tions for which they are not qual­i­fied and/or the task is out of scope for the job de­scrip­tion.

Su­per­vi­sory re­spon­si­bil­i­ties – in this case, man­age­ment will be able to de­ter­mine if the scope of re­spon­si­bil­ity for su­per­vi­sory roles is too broad and if re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as­signed make sense. The sur­vey also iden­ti­fies whether or not an in­di­vid­ual is su­per­vis­ing ex­ter­nal ven­dors or con­trac­tors, in­terns or students as these re­quire a higher level skill and influence.

In­ter­nal/ex­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­quire­ments — who staff are com­mu­ni­cat­ing with also gives an in­ter­est­ing per­spec­tive to how peo­ple do their job. In to­day’s world, com­mu­ni­ca­tion by email is fast and fu­ri­ous, how­ever, it isn’t the num­ber of peo­ple that’s im­por­tant, the is­sue is the pur­pose of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Some em­ploy­ees deal with straight­for­ward com­mu­ni­ca­tion while oth­ers need to ne­go­ti­ate and/ or influence oth­ers.

Job de­scrip­tions and man­age­ment struc­ture act as the back­bone of your or­ga­ni­za­tion. With­out an ef­fec­tive sys­tem, jobs will not be co­he­sive, re­port­ing struc­tures may be mis­aligned and, over­all, the or­ga­ni­za­tion will not be ef­fi­cient or ef­fec­tive. Fi­nally, your man­agers and em­ploy­ees alike will be so frus­trated that turnover will be high. When you rec­og­nize these symp­toms, mak­ing the time to con­duct a thor­ough job anal­y­sis process will pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant short- and long-term ben­e­fits.

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