Who Has (Really) Read Their Job Description?

Hands up, go on be honest.   Crafting job descriptions has been a mainstay of HR activity for decades but how effective are the hours we spend doing this?

The conventional wisdom goes that jobs need to be defined so that people are aware of the duties and responsibilities they are expected to undertake on behalf of their organisations.

There are numerous problems with traditional job descriptions in my view.

  1. Very few if any people read them in my experience;
  2. They become outdated at the point they are written;
  3. They are time-consuming to maintain and update;
  4. Jobs change over time, a lot;
  5. Long lists of duties and responsibilities don’t show how to do the job well;
  6. You can never include everything you need to in a job description;
  7. Most often, job descriptions are prepared for the job holder, who do not input into them;
  8. Poorly defined and narrow job descriptions used in recruitment can rule out many people who would otherwise bring valuable skills and talents to our teams;
  9. Approaches to job descriptions tend to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach, they lack depth and insight about the needs of the actual job being undertaken to make them meaningful;
  10. Too often, for the sake of expediency, job description templates are updated when a job holder leaves, missing valuable opportunities to have a fresh approach and rethink.

So, what is the solution?

In order to create high performing teams, we need to be confident and step back from unnecessary bureaucracy.  It’s about seeing the person, not the process.

High performing teams do not require extensive job descriptions in order to ensure people make a positive impact.  People make a difference not because of an expertly crafted job description but because there is a clear set of organisational values and an environment of psychological safety for them to operate.

So, a better approach in my mind is to consider a job profile.  The main differences between job profiles and job descriptions are as follows

  1. Job profiles are shorter and more user-friendly
  2. They are primarily values and principles-based, rather than duties based
  3. They contain key ‘measures of success’ that is, some explicit statements about what doing the job well looks like
  4. They are shaped by the person doing the job in conjunction with their manager, therefore promoting more ownership and accountability
  5. The person doing the job has the responsibility for updating or suggesting any changes to the job profile, as we know that jobs are fluid in nature and things change over time
  6. When someone leaves, the job holder has the responsibility for presenting the job profile suggested for their successor
  7. They are designed to cater to the unique strengths of the individual person, rather than restrict them with a narrow set of rigid duties
  8. Being shorter and more user-friendly they are designed to be a tool to support conversations between the manager and the team member
  9. They show how the individual role contributes to the overall goals and purpose of the organisation
  10. The job profile starts from the premise that the organisation trusts the person to do the right thing, within a broad set of values and guiding principles.

So, if you’re suffering from job description fatigue, perhaps it’s time to rethink the approach?


Kevin Miller
Kevin Miller
My 'Why' is to inspire a movement towards truly people-centred organizations. Organizations which see the person first and the employee second. A Coach, facilitator, and catalyst for positive change, I thrive on the challenge of making the world of work better and more humanized for people in organizations. I love networking and collaborating to share fresh ideas, insights and to learn. I have an in-depth knowledge and practical 'hands-on' experience of leading HR and Organizational Development projects. I am a visionary who rethinks what is possible when it comes to HR, leadership and the future of work, igniting positive change in others. Never forgetting the real reason behind my work, I love spending time with my wife Kelly and my children who are the centre of my world and the reason behind my 'Why'.

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