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Any engagement survey will tell you that your employees experience role clarity when they know what they need to do and what is expected of them. So why is this so difficult to achieve? If you’ve ever seen Office Space, you know that when the consultants, a.k.a. the Bobs, come in, they are trying to discern role clarity among the office staff. And this incites some pretty emotional conversations.

In a recent blog from Emplify, they explain “Role clarity is one of the 14 drivers of employee engagement, yet it’s often overlooked or undervalued. When an employee has role clarity, they understand specifically what is expected of them in their job. They know what tasks they’re supposed to accomplish, what their specific goals are, and how their work impacts the larger goals of the business.”

Role clarity should start before your new hire ever starts. The job description should be clear, concise and let employees know, well, what they do here! At Purple Ink, we work with clients large and small on updating job descriptions for role clarity in their organization. Last fall, we took one of the largest universities in our state and helped them update job descriptions across the colleges and administration in time to launch a new HRIS system. We are currently assisting another client whose descriptions number in the hundreds due to years of building a new job description off the old one. Role clarity drives engagement, and an updated job description is one of the keys to success.

So, whose job is it? Updating and maintaining job descriptions should involve the employee, the manager, and human resources. While we would love for our managers to own the job descriptions and update them every time a new employee starts, we don’t always get that outcome. The Society for Human Resource Management suggests HR’s responsibility is to coach and facilitate the process of updating. “While HR professionals may not know the essential functions of every position, they are in a unique position to see how each job description fits into the larger organization,” Kathryn Tyler says. The employee is a great place to start, since they are doing the job every day. Matching the employee’s perception with their manager’s understanding and expectations of the job can sometimes be an eye-opening conversation. This is where HR can help facilitate. Owning the job description makes sense for HR, since it touches so many facets of our work. One thing we see a lot of, a “what not to do,” is match the description to the person currently doing the job. This makes it difficult to backfill when someone advances or vacates the role and may not meet the needs of the company.

When should you update a job description? When you use it! If you are regularly using your job descriptions, like when you’re working on compensation or succession planning, training and development, and performance management and hiring, you are a lot more likely to keep your job descriptions up-to-date.

Need help getting those job descriptions updated? Let Purple Ink help. We can facilitate everything from conversations with employees and managers to updating your template and even entering the new description into your HRIS system for you. Don’t let job descriptions get pushed aside again this year for other projects that demand your time and attention. Contact your Purple Ink consultant and we can help you get started!

Erin Brothers
Erin Brothers
Erin is Purple Ink’s Director of Consulting Services. Erin’s top strength is Achiever and she truly enjoys working hard and gains energy by accomplishing more work. Every day starts at zero, and tackling projects big and small helps give that sense of accomplishment to benefit her clients, peers, family and friends.

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