The map is not the territory
Recently I’ve been working on a project with a company which evolved from being a division to becoming a standing alone organisation. The most immediate impact of the change of model can be easily seen on the way the business is re-organised: new departments appear as a consequence of the split, new roles need to be considered, new interactions are generated, … Taking that scenario into account, we decided to launch a job mapping process where we invited a significant percentage of co-workers to join a job crafting session (online or offline, depending on the reality of each person). In those sessions, the co-workers themselves, coming from all business areas and seniority levels, from operations to tactics and strategy, designed and wrote their own role profile just based on their day to day activities, using their own language, avoiding HR technicalities and grades. Several people brought their printed job description and, when told that the exercise was not about replicating pre-set documents, but about writing about their real job, they smiled, relieved, and said: “Thank goodness! To be honest, my job description document does not match with my real job anymore”. The outcome of the exercise was very inspiring: authentic, real profiles which represent the daily activity of each role. They truly are a trustworthy foundation to build realistic rewards systems, flexible talent paths, efficient workflows based on the reality of the business right here, right now … The relevant thing, though, is the fact of confirming that each co-worker feels identified with his/her own co-created role profile, which honestly represents his/her real activity.
The famous job descriptions are, together with the performance review and the 360º appraisal, the 90s style HR tools which demand the biggest amounts of effort and money, offering the lesser return on investment (apart from eroding the department’s reputation regarding its internal client). The process of writing, analyzing, validating and confirming a job description is utterly long and non-operational. Right when you print the ultimate version, the job has already changed, so you need to modify it (and the modification process is as boring and long as the previous one). It is quite usual, then, to find companies with dramatically outdated job descriptions. Keeping them updated following the 90s style process takes time and money, and currently there is no surplus of any of them in the companies. However, the big drama lies on the minor role that the final user (i.e. the co-worker) plays throughout the process of writing a job description as well as its outcome. As result of that, it is almost impossible for a co-worker to feel 100% identified with his/her job description. In most of the cases, the job description does not show what a role is, but what a role should be, according to people who most of the times do not understand the real meaning and everyday aspects of the role described on the document. In a world such as ours, where the scenario changes month after month, regardless of the industry or the size of your company, the fact of working just using conditional instead of present tense is like living in a post-it without getting into action.
There is nothing wrong in getting rid of 30-year old tools that will not help us to evolve. We will not win a recognition award after writing job descriptions following old methodologies. All in all, what’s the use of a map which does not replicate the territory?