The Importance of Defining Employee Roles

The dynamics of your employee teams are defined by many factors, all of which determine their efficiency and effectiveness. One of the most important factors, in my experience, is defining employee roles.

In my system for Human Capital Management (the process of managing employees from recruitment to retention), I place a huge amount of focus on defining the roles of each and every employee. This starts with the job posting and carries through into an individual’s day-to-day responsibilities. As a long-time management coach, I have seen first-hand how mindfully defining each employee’s role, responsibilities and success metrics creates more success on the team and within the overall company.

I read an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review last month that really drove this point home. The article summarized a study completed by the author, Tamara Erikson, on team dynamics at the BBC and Reuters. She found that successful collaboration was better on teams when each employee’s role was clearly defined. She found that defining individual roles impacted collaboration success more than spelling out the group’s approach.

Erikson noted, “Without such clarity, team members are likely to waste energy negotiating roles or protecting turf, rather than focusing on the task.”

Carry this idea over into employees’ everyday tasks. By clearly defining employee roles from the start, not only do we target and hire the best, most qualified candidates, but we also ensure their continued success by informing them exactly how that success will be determined and measured.

What Needs to be in Every Position Description

I have been a management coach for many, many years, and I can tell you that the biggest mistake that I see managers and recruiters make time and time again, is not clearly defining individual position tasks, responsibilities and success metrics. Increase your employee and team success rate by ensuring that for each position in your organization, you have a position description that includes:

  • Job Description: Collection of tasks and responsibilities that an employee is responsible for; includes an official title.
  • Job Tasks:  Unit of work or set of activities needed to produce some result (e.g., answering phones, writing a memo, sorting the mail, etc.).
  • Job Functions: A group of tasks is sometimes referred to as a function.
  • Role(s): The set of responsibilities or expected results associated with a job. A job usually includes several roles.
  • Competencies: Abilities (skills) and capacity required to perform the job successfully.
  • Performance Management: Defines how the position’s performance is measured and its impact from an organization perspective. All the components within the performance management perspective relate and provide context to one another.
  • Critical Success Factors (CSF): Provide focus on the influences that impact the performance of the job.
  • Key Process Ownership (KPO): Identifies the critical processes owned by the position.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPI): Provide visibility to performance through the use of metrics and established performance targets; thereby giving context to vague concepts.
  • Career History: The background experience typically required in order to have gained the level of knowledge and competency required for the position.

Without defining these extremely important position attributes, you are failing to tell employees what they need to accomplish, and without that direction your employees and your team will not deliver the results that they could be delivering.

Howard Shore is a management coach and founder of Activate Group Inc, based in Miami, Florida. His firm works with companies to deliver transformational management and business coaching to executive leadership. To learn more about management coaching through AGI, please contact Howard at (305) 722-7216 or email him.

Business Coach, Business Coaching, Communication, Employee Selection