Who's Doing What? Job Descriptions, Organizational Structure Need Regular Review

Winnipeg Free Press, November 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Who's Doing What? Job Descriptions, Organizational Structure Need Regular Review


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 Job descriptions can quickly become outdated as more work and often conflicting assignments are simply assigned to an individual without thought.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. …

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Who's Doing What? Job Descriptions, Organizational Structure Need Regular Review
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