Why your job descriptions need updating


April 24, 2019 / Marketing / Greg Atkinson

The perception that it’s a buyer’s market, with employers holding all the bargaining power, is quickly being overturned by the rise in freelancing and more vocal employees. According to Kalido’s own research, 50% of the UK workforce will be classified as freelance by 2020. This trend is mirrored in the US, where 40% of the workforce can be categorised as freelance. Of these freelancers, 42% say being able to work on projects that really matter to them is important. The desire to do work that matters is mirrored by in-house employees. 83% of employees feel having a sense of purpose is important, and gives their day-to-day work meaning.

Emphasis has long been on the employee impressing the employer. Tips on writing the perfect CV and making a good impression during interviews abound. But perhaps it’s time to ask whether employers are keeping up their end of the bargain instead. With both employees and freelancers expecting and demanding work that fully utilises their skills, and that contribute to causes they really care about, perhaps it’s time to ask whether the jobs offered by employers are satisfactory? And furthermore, whether the job descriptions reflect the true nature of the job?

Shift from employer to employee-focussed work

best job descriptions

Companies need to have a higher purpose than profit in order to attract the best talent.

In our blog ‘From Friedman to Fink: why profit is no longer purpose’, we discuss why a company must have a higher purpose. Whereas businesses of the past concentrated mainly on profit, businesses of the future recognise that profit can only be achieved as the result of purpose. This requirement for a deeper meaning must be extended into the work offered by the company.

Up to this point, the corporate world has concerned itself with finding the best candidate to fill a position. A candidate’s skills are assessed for suitability to perform a function. The employee’s aspirations and goals have not been of primary concern. In fact, even the individual’s experience at work has not been a priority. This has resulted in only 13% of global employees being engaged at work. And 6 in 10 employees worldwide reporting increased stress in the past 2 years.

But there is a growing understanding that employer-focussed work must shift to employee-focussed work. Millennials, who comprise a quarter of the global population, are demanding 2 things from their work:

  1. Ability to fully use their skills
  2. Ability to really effect change

Bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy, or outdated and unproductive methods and technologies are anathema to a workforce that expects to deliver – and get – quick results. So, how does the conscientious employer ensure that the work it provides satisfies these requirements?

Skills made visible and put to work

how to write job descriptions

Real skills need to be visible in ways not possible until we built Kalido.

Employees can become frustrated when their skills are not fully utilised. This is partially caused by the limitations of the traditional recruitment process. Only primary skills are listed on the average CV, or discussed during entry interviews. This means the employer is often unaware of secondary skills and newly acquired skills. Small wonder that these skills are never called upon.

By making all of an individual’s skills and expertise transparent, the employer benefits from a plethora of new skills it didn’t know it had at its disposal. And the employee can find many more opportunities to do interesting work. This is why having a platform like Kalido is crucial. Kalido lets a user showcase the full spectrum of their skills, from primary, to secondary, to newly acquired ones, to those they’re in the process of acquiring. This means the legal consultant can flex their new coding skills when the company website needs updating. Or the PA can be tasked with upgrading the break room with their previously unknown interior design skills. Job titles become fluid, and no longer limit the types of tasks a person can perform.

When an employer understands the entirety of a person’s abilities, it is much more able to match the person with suitable tasks. These may be an extension of, or wholly different to, the tasks usually performed. This provides excellent opportunities for employees to your their skills fully.

Meaningful work provided

improve job descriptions

Create an environment for your teams to make an impact and they will lay down roots.

Being able to use one’s skills is only the first part of the equation. Meaningful work is the second. The work must relate and contribute to a cause the employee cares about. This could be global warming, financial equality, food security, gender rights, animal welfare, healthcare, or any number of social and political issues. According to research by PWC, knowing that their day-to-day work is making an impact is important for 83% of employees. And 53% feel energised by contributing to a cause. That’s why it’s important for a company to have a higher purpose, a Vision Statement that helps employees understand this purpose and how to work towards it, and staff who enthusiastically and tirelessly strive to do so.

Clocking in for the sake of a paycheque is no longer enough for the employee of tomorrow. Without a sense of contribution to society and the world, employees will leave – for another employer, or to become an entrepreneur.

Dynamic language used

best job descriptions

An organisation that is people led should use language that reflects this.

The average job description is an uninspiring document filled with vague and clichéd phrases. A company is inevitably looking for a ‘teamplayer who is good with people’ to ‘manage projects’ and ‘oversee growth’. As if any candidate would admit to being terrible with people, or to not having the foggiest idea what ‘managing’ actually entails in that particular role.

One reason for this placeholder language is the company has no clear idea what it wants to achieve. If it’s recruiting to replace an employee, it’s probably just posted the same job description from 5 years ago. It probably hasn’t taken the time to really think about the challenges it’s facing, and the type of skills it needs now. Or it lacks a higher purpose and doesn’t know it needs someone with vision to help it achieve more.

But for a company that wants to fully put its people’s skills to work, in order to achieve more and better things, it must update its job descriptions to reflect this. Instead of meaningless phrases like ‘manage’, dynamic language like ‘change’ or ‘become’ is very powerful. Which candidate wouldn’t want to ‘change the industry for the betterment of society’? Instead of ‘managing teams’ talk about ‘nurturing people’ and ‘guiding them to become the best version of themselves’.

And instead of focussing on the What of the job (what they’ll be doing for the company), emphasise the Why (the result they’ll be working for). Instead of describing the job as ‘coordinating FMCG transport systems’, reframe it as ‘alleviating hunger in the local community by gathering food from local producers and distributing it to charities’. And instead of ‘upgrading banking software’, let candidates know that they’ll actually be ‘making emergency loans quickly available for victims of natural disasters’.

By using language that captures the spirit of the company’s vision and emphasises the results the work can achieve, candidates are much more likely to see how the position aligns with their own goals and aspirations.

The employer of the future cannot assume that employees will automatically flock to their doors. Instead, it is up to the employer to entice new recruits by putting their skills to work, to achieve things both care deeply about.