In his newly released book Management Reset: Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness, Ed Lawler describes a new world of organizational management and has this to say about the concept of a job:
...job descriptions lost their usefulness years ago, and the next management reset will acknowledge that jobs themselves are an obsolete notion. Instead, work will be defined by the projects and initiatives that drive current effectiveness and create future strategies.
And in their recent research paper, published in WorldatWork's Journal, Patricia Zingheim and Jay Schuster celebrate the accomplishments of 20 organizations who have defined conventional wisdom and replaced jobs - as the centerpiece of HR and compensation practices, with competencies. From their paper:
One CEO summed it up, “We were in a system of jobs. The problem was that we could not evaluate performance effectively and develop an HR strategy based on jobs. So we moved to what the organization needs done by people and this was not necessarily connected to jobs. We did this in large part to combat bureaucracy and proliferating job titles. As organizations grow, they create titles and levels and never lessen the level-building process. And nobody wants to leave jobs unfilled. So competencies work for us.”
Going against the prevailing practice of jobs was likened to rowing a small boat against a strong river current. Yet these organizations embarked on the journey and report satisfaction with the result. The momentum to remain an organization of jobs is powerful. Nearly every organization is structured around organization charts with boxes inside that are jobs with titles and functional descriptions. For decades, people have been offered jobs and job promotions. When asked what people do, most describe their job and provide their job title rather than describe the competencies and skills they have and the work they are doing. Changing this paradigm is a formidable task.
So is the job an antiquated relic, bound for the talent management dustbin?
In modern industrial times, the job has served as a key link between employee and employer. The intersecting point between a person's capabilities and an organization's needs. In this way, it provides structure and a clear foundation for the employment relationship. Unfortunately, it can also create bureaucracy and boundaries which impede collaboration and momentum.
Do the demands on today's organization to be agile and flexible require that we eliminate this link entirely? In many ways, jobs have become the symbol of all that ails us organizationally - the red tape, the burdensome hierarchy, the title creep and confusion, etc. Is this demonization of the job on target? Will eliminating jobs help us fix these things?
There is no denying that the nature of work is changing. I find the idea of person-based pay very compelling, but it certainly faces some challenges on the ground level. Can we overcome the obstacles - from the regulatory (FLSA compliance, internal pay equity requirements) to the external benchmarking (how do we compare our pay levels to other organizations) without relying on a "shadow" system of jobs in the background?
Do we ditch the job? Or does it live on, but evolve to be more flexibly and loosely defined? Made up of ever changing projects and initiatives, rather than a finite list of key accountabilities?
What's your vote: extinction ... or evolution?
Ann Bares is the Founder and Editor of the Compensation Café, Author of Compensation Force and Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group LLC, where she provides compensation consulting services to a wide range of client organizations. She earned her M.B.A. at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School and is a bookhound and aspiring cook in her spare time. Follow her on Twitter at @annbares.
Image courtesy of zdnet.com