When reading in the news about employee engagement, you will most likely not read anything about job descriptions.
The popular view is that job descriptions are a bureaucratic tool that is being used for compliance and legal purposes. It’s usually a one-time exercise that is done at the time of hiring and then shelved for not being looked at again. If we look at daily practice, this view is not far from the truth.
Another popular view is that employee engagement will be improved by a positive work culture, providing perks, and benefits, and addressing employees’ work-life balance or mental health issues. There is nothing wrong with this point of view either.
But this is only one part of the story. The other part is that employee engagement and job descriptions can mutually reinforce each other. They are only unrelated for as long as an organization does not use job descriptions for what they could be. If job descriptions are being used actively, they become a strong lever for employee engagement.
Employee engagement describes the emotional and intellectual commitment that employees have to their organization and its goals. It is characterized by employees’ involvement in, enthusiasm for, and commitment to their work. It describes the level of discretionary effort that employees are willing to put into their jobs.
It is directly linked to a company’s overall success. Engaged employees are more productive, more likely to stay with the company for longer periods, and more likely to provide excellent customer service. They are more likely to be innovative, and proactive in solving problems and suggesting improvements. They also help to create a positive reputation and attract top talent.
It’s easy to understand why companies invest in employee engagement, it’s key to their success.
From employee engagement to job descriptions
The theory hinges on the aspects of meaningfulness, safety, and availability. The general understanding today is that “meaningfulness” refers to meaningful work. Employees need to understand the value of their role and their contribution to the organization.
The surprising question is, why that is a problem at all? Why wouldn’t employees understand their contribution? The raison d’etre of any job and its contribution to the outcomes will be clear to any organization itself. Otherwise, a job wouldn’t exist.
The place where any organization stores this information, is the job description (and in its extension in the job architecture). This means that by default any organization already has the information that can communicate to an employee why their job exists and what their contribution is. It’s even stored already in a document that is supposed to be shared with the employee.
Lack of time and understanding
The problem is that in daily practice job descriptions are perceived as a bureaucratic obligation and not being used to their full potential: Employees might not even know that their company uses job descriptions. Line managers don’t possess the time to update them. HR might not have the tools to structure them for the organization.
This is problematic because job descriptions are an existing and free source for employee engagement. If they would be brought alive for onboarding, performance reviews, and workforce planning, they would unfold an untapped positive impact.
From job descriptions to employee engagement
Prepared carefully, any job description will make a role meaningful in a basic sense. It will outline tasks and responsibilities and put the role in the context of the organization’s goals. From this point of view, there is no job without meaning or a purpose.
And there is no reason why this tool shouldn’t be used. On the contrary, showing a candidate the linkage between tasks and the organization’s goal should already be part of the hiring and onboarding process. Communicating to new employees why they are there is nearly a question of respect. It’s the most basic and first step towards creating an engaged workforce.
How to use job descriptions for employee engagement
If you would like to use this hidden source for improving employee engagement in your organization then use the following suggestions for the management of your job descriptions.
Communicate how a role contributes towards the organization’s success. Highlight the expectations and responsibilities for each role within the company. By providing a clear understanding of how their work impacts the organization and contributes to overall goals, employees can see the bigger picture and feel a sense of purpose in their role.
Update job descriptions regularly. What happens in a job evolves in tune with the changing business environment. If a company’s goals, tools, and processes change, so do the jobs inside the company. By updating job descriptions to align with reality, you communicate to employees that their work is relevant and important. It is a win-win situation for the company and the employees because it also creates better results for HR practices.
Align learning & development. Training opportunities that align with employees’ job descriptions will show them an opportunity to advance in their careers and create a sense of being valued and a sense of direction. Plus, training a team to advance the company’s goals obviously creates a more productive and efficient team.
Use job descriptions for performance evaluations. Goals are easier to understand if they are directly connected to the contribution a role can make. They can be described as what a path and success can look like. It also helps the company to track progress and identify areas for improvement.
Involve employees in updating their job descriptions. This ensures that they not only know about the importance of their job description and how their role fits into the organization. It also creates a sense of ownership. By including employees in the process, they feel heard and valued and can make sure that the description accurately reflects the role and its responsibilities, without going too much into detail.
We are convinced that many companies will be able to create a considerable impact on their employee engagement with these simple and free steps. Read our article How to Write Effective Job Descriptions to get started.