Importance of Job definition to Learning and Talent Development

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Importance of Job definition to Learning and Talent Development

 When the learning and talent development strategy focuses on creating a workplace environment that encourages and supports learning behaviour, the meaning employees associate with their jobs becomes an extremely important consideration and variable in the design of products and interventions.

As reflected in this post “rethinking the role of the learning function” by Dehumo, learning is a behaviour, i.e. actions that people take in response to their on-going experiences as a mean to achieve their desired outcomes. How employees view and experience their job plays a fundamental role in what actions they choose to take to develop themselves to achieve the outcomes they desire from that job.
Staying true to the spirit of ‘back-to-basic’, there are many frameworks, principles and approaches out there to job design, job evaluation, job grading, etc. Came across this global job level post by Radford-Aon with the framework in the image below:

There are also equivalent frameworks and approaches from other organisations like Hay group for example.
The intent here is not to review these but just to indicate that all these approaches provide pretty strong foundations for defining meaningful jobs. We want to draw attention to 2 aspects of these approaches that have direct impact on learning and talent development.

Job families and career categories– We have a slightly different way of looking at this. Contrasting our interpretation with the example above, first we choose to use the term job types instead of career categories and then we apply a further distinction of individual contributor, managers and senior executives. We also chose to identify different sub-categories within the individual contributor job type. See image below.

Job level– this is important as it refers to how jobs are sized to determine which ones require higher levels of knowledge and skills often related to more complex situations to manage. One example of how this is approached is using the Hay group framework where jobs are evaluated and graded using the following elements

  1. Know-How
  2. Problem Solving
  3. Accountability

An example of the application of levels can be seen in the image below from the same radford aon article:

So what does this look like in practice?

Theoretically, having well defined jobs should make it easy to talk about the knowledge and skills required to be successful in that job. However, we know this is not so. Most organisations struggle to maintain the discipline around job definitions as try to keep up with expectations and organisation structures evolving in response to strategy and people movements. Also, while most organisations used at least one of the available approaches at a point in time to design their structure and jobs, over time the commitment to the principles of the approach adopted wane and the decisions about the job design are less intentional and left to the manager. Often this results in ill-defined jobs that are not consciously linked to the strategy and strategy execution of the function or the organisation. Most times, these job definitions are based on perceived capacity-related challenges based on tasks that need to be completed. In some cases they could be based on expertise the team lacks. Regardless, the end result most often than not tends to be a job without a clear definition of purpose – value and results. The model of a job role presented by Dehumo in this post “Key role variables and their development value” will be used here to illustrate a practical way that Knowledge2Empower directly impacts Will2Succeed by empowering the individual to actively construct meaning around the key elements of the job especially when that meaning isn’t coming from the system (manager, HR, immediate team, etc).

As mentioned already, when we deviate from some basic principles, we spend a lot time trying to describe what a job will do when actually we should be spending more time clarifying what value and results a job needs to deliver in line with strategy. Defining the ‘why’ and letting the ‘how’ emerge ensures the job definition remains true for as long as the value and results are relevant. In contrast, defining the tasks risks the job definition becoming instantly obsolete and irrelevant right after being written as situations force a change in how the results can be achieved. The worst outcome observed sometimes as a consequence of this is employees sticking to the defined tasks even when it is clear those tasks are no longer delivering valuable results. This post “understanding why” talks a lot more about the importance of defining ‘why’ over ‘what’ and this other post mentioned earlier “Key role variables and their development value” goes into a lot more detail about the model below.

 To illustrate the construct above, we invite you to try to answer these questions about your current role. But before you do, you should read this earlier post “frameworks applied to frontline role” on how our Knowledge2Empower, Skill2Act and Will2Succeed frameworks apply to jobs.

As you try to answer these questions, pay attention to how your feelings about your role and experiences are affected. Also be very aware of when you think your knowledge is adequate or inadequate to provide a meaningful answer to the question.

You can use the example below of a frontline line relationship manager role in retail banking. This has been completed at a very high level without the necessary context of someone in the role making sense of their role. It however provides a good example of how to think about each question

In summary, we believe every day we spend at work, as we enact our roles, we are continually constructing meaning around what we are doing and why we are doing it (what success means and how to achieve it). This evolution of meaning can be done with total awareness and internationally or not. Regardless of how it is done, a key driver of that evolution of meaning is knowledge. We believe encouraging active processing of the knowledge being acquired everyday from the experiences of the role will go a long way in addressing the Will2Succeed and eventually the behaviours related to actions taken to succeed including developing knowledge and skills needed to succeed. 

If you would like to explore how this might work within your organisational context to achieve more mileage from your activities and investments in learning and talent development, do reach out for a conversation.

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