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Agree completely that the most critical jobs are those essential to the making or the selling of the product or service. All else is secondary.

Also concur about the future trend towards the customization of total reward options, not just at the "job" level but at the individual level, too. After all, we permit different payroll deductions and tend to personalize performance output expectations, so why not similarly craft compensation in its broadest sense to best meet the personal preferences of the employee? We don't wear the same clothes for every activity, so why should we use the same fixed identical rewards for every worker?


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Thanks for the article. I've got some experience with coaching organizations through this process, and it's part of the Strategic Workforce Planning methodologies I'm familiar with - so much of what you say rings true:
1. "Treating critical jobs differently is a trend likely to make HR very nervous." - It makes senior exectives nervous too. Particularly when they realise that even though they set the strategy, they aren't generally "critical" to its' execution.

2. "A critical job is one that is not determined by hierarchy" - generally, it works in reverse - not all lower-level jobs are critical, but a great proportion of critical jobs will be low-level.

I'd add another observation - Critical Roles sometimes take a long time to competence, so turnover in these roles is incredibly expensive. This became blindingly obvious to me when I realised during a consulting assignment that there are 12 people, who take 6 YEARS to competence (yes, years in the organization, after a very specialised engineering degree), that are critical to keeping a major piece of infrastructure running for one of the Australian states. Fortunately the organization I was working with was well aware of this and great at supporting and remunerating these workers.

Thanks for your comments Alex. It is very important that execs define critical jobs as part of their business strategy. I.e. if the strategy is to break into new markets (like a new country) then critical jobs will be sales/marketing. If strategy is to create a new product line then it might be a specific type of designer. It becomes complicated because strategies change over time.

It's not a matter of simply paying more, but ---given global competitiveness today ---- it is about going above/beyond to keep people in these jobs happy, productive and engaged.

The difficult part for HR is understanding and becoming comfortable with this.

Exciting times we live in!

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