Moving up in the workforce

For a plethora of reasons, companies shy away from committing to proper role definition. Within new companies, the titles and related definitions can be vague and ambiguous. In more established companies, executives maintain the same operational structure that helped launch the business decades ago. In many cases, the decision is not deliberate, but considered a low priority that never sees the light of day. However, the unwillingness to address this issue could be costing more than you know.

But Why?

In rapidly developing businesses such as start-ups, divvying up newly evolving tasks can happen so casually and frequently that the development of well-defined roles comes at a significant delay, if ever. In other cases, companies might fear meddling with job titles will affect the morale and increase negativity among bitter employees.

Identifying the roles and defining accompanying tasks should be a fundamental and recurring practice in any firm. Besides setting clear and present expectations, role definition ensures that managers can identify when key responsibilities are left unattended.  Especially when a company is experiencing rapid growth, it is vital that all members are aware of everyone’s roles and responsibilities, not solely their own. The logic that applies to beginner athletes being taught to call “my ball” applies to role definition in the workplace; in its absence, a task can either fall through the cracks or receive an over-allocation of resources, leaving undesirable outcomes either way.

Furthermore, despite the fear managers can face when labeling existing employees with new and potentially more significant titles, it is an inherent part of business. Although it seems easier to quietly promote individuals without public advertisement, in the long run, this strategy can prove more damaging. If employees are unaware of the changes in responsibility, it can lead to uncomfortable encounters, where both the promoted candidate and his or her peers are all left to feel undervalued. Conversely, a manager who announces role changes and/or promotion is advocating transparency, growth potential and internal recognition of a job well-done.

But How?

The key to ensuring up-to-date and appropriate role definition lies in consistent evaluation and communication. Set periodic assessments of your business landscape. The frequency depends on your company’s volatility and growth rate but practicing proactive role reviews will help decide if you need to amend certain existing roles or onboard net new positions.

If a decision is made to change a role, or create a new one, formalize the announcement. Changes in procedure, assignments, report structure, among other things, are critical to share to ensure fluidity and efficiency. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the room for growth at your organization is alive and well. Be sure to remain sensitive and open if such announcements hit a nerve with employees who feel slighted or undervalued.

Although changing or adding new role definitions can be intimidating, maximum success demands it. By clearly defining everyone’s role within the organization, you are ensuring complete efficiency and accountability across the board.