Roles and Responsibilities: Align Your Employees With Your Business Goals to Help Your Bottom Line

What am I supposed to do and what results am I responsible for? These are foundational questions of any employee, but surprisingly few small and mid-sized businesses take the time to answer in writing as a part of their policy. If employees are only provided verbal descriptions of their job and are left to do whatever their manager asks, much productivity can be lost and it can be equally expensive in other areas such as hiring costs, turnover, false prioritization, work imbalance, etc.

Each firm should have an organizational chart, whether you’re just getting started or if you have hundreds of employees. The next layer below the organizational chart should be job descriptions, which capture roles and responsibilities(R&Rs). Your strategic plan should highlight what the company is doing, how it will do it, and what goals it is pursuing. This information should flow into the organizational chart and each unit and every worker should clearly understand what their role is and for what accomplishments they will be responsible. Structuring the firm in such a manner isn’t time consuming, but requires a bit of thought because it should be accurately created and not require constant correction. When roles and responsibilities are defined and understood, the alignment in a business increases dramatically.

Many other benefits flow from this basic building block of an organization. Hiring new employees is a typically expensive and time-consuming process. If this work is done poorly, turnover can be high and the costs and lost time rise even more rapidly. A part of this challenge is the lack of productive communication between HR and business units or hiring managers. If the hiring manager doesn’t clearly articulate the roles and responsibilities of the person to be hired, HR can’t source prospective employees easily. Instead, they have to try to interpret the information they’ve been given and do their best. Such communication disconnects can lead to frustrating interviews, both for candidates and interviewers who realize they are wasting their time if the fit is completely incorrect. Having defined job descriptions and roles and responsibilities allows HR to craft useful job postings and vet candidates efficiently. Reducing the time to hire and turnover has a definite positive impact on the bottom line of a firm.

Many businesses monitor the performance of their workforce. Employees are typically evaluated at a minimum of annually and these evaluations influence decisions on promotions, raises, transfers, etc. When R&Rs are in place and goals from the plan are attached, rating a employee’s performance becomes more standard and rational. This process also provides an opportunity to discuss suggestions for improvement, career path, and recognition of great results. One the other side of the issue, if you need to dismiss somebody for poor performance, you have both the standards and the results documented.

As a business grows, work increases. In many instances, the productive employees or the people who won’t say “no” are given much of the new work to complete. These workers, who are usually the backbone of a firm, can quickly get overworked and become dissatisfied with their jobs. Rather than risk losing these valuable people, use the job descriptions and R&Rs to ensure that individuals aren’t being task saturated. When you have early notice that there is more work than people to accomplish the work, you can preemptively begin the process to recruit more employees. You may also be able to examine the distribution of work, if the balance is out of alignment, you can shift responsibilities and ensure everybody is working to their capacity, but nobody is consistently over-worked.

Now that I’ve covered the “why” and benefits of capturing this critical information in writing, I’ll address common components of a job description that covers the points I’ve covered.

1. Position Title – no need to be fancy, accurate and clear is better
2. Reports To – who is this role responsible to and if more than one, what is the priority and precedence?
3. Objective – what is the person holding this job supposed to do at a high level?
4. Responsibilities – here is where you capture more detail and can be very specific about important areas and general about others less critical
5. Essential Functions – what needs to be accomplished, this helps in prioritizing activities
6. Position Specific Responsibilities – similar roles in a business may have different specific demands and those are addressed here
7. General – cover anything else important
8. Standards of Performance – measurements and standards for both the normal activities and also for goals linked to the strategic plan

There shouldn’t be any need for a description of longer than two pages to be created. It should be clear and easily understood by employees, peers, supervisors, etc. I like to keep the master copy with the current organizational chart and a copy of the updated strategic plan. This information should be transparent and available for others in the firm to review. You can also add categories on experience and qualifications needed to hold a role for employees to monitor their career path and potential for qualifying for a promotion window.

This important component of a business is frequently overlooked, but shouldn’t be. Aligning your workforce, reducing your managers workloads, increasing accountability, and linking HR more closely to the rest of the business are a few of the outcomes. If you don’t have yours in place, today is a great time to start developing them and aiding your bottom line!