Job Redesign: A Practical Guide to Redesigning Jobs & Roles

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Job redesign is an increasingly relevant tool to shape the changing roles in the future of work. When done right, it can create a workforce that moves the company forward. In this article, we will explain what job redesign is and offer a structured approach to redesigning jobs.

Content
What is job redesign? A definition
Job redesigning – a structured approach in 5 phases
1. Changing reality
2. Individual job analysis
3. Core competency analysis
4. Job redefining
5. Redesign implementation
Conclusion
FAQ

What is job redesign? A definition

Job redesign is the process of rearranging tasks and responsibilities to better align roles with the changing environment inside and outside the organization.

Let’s start with the last part of the definition. Due to changing environments both inside and outside organizations, job roles change. Today’s world has never been more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (also referred to as VUCA). Inside the organization, digitization and automation also impact job roles.

When it comes to the changing environment outside the organization, consider this example. In the ’30s and ’40s, half a million people worked as Soda Jerks. The Soda Jerk operated the soda fountain in a drugstore or supermarket and this was a highly desired position. At the same time, elevator operators, switchboard operators, and linotypists were highly common jobs.

Soda Jerk
A New York soda jerk in 1936 (source: Wikipedia)

All of these jobs have disappeared. In today’s world, the same is happening with many food preparation jobs, construction, cleaning, personal service, and sales jobs. These developments also impact tasks and responsibilities.

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Automated for the people

The second part of the definition is about the rearrangement of tasks and responsibilities. Most of the time, jobs don’t get automated 100%. Rather, certain tasks get automated. This means that over time, a junior accountant, for instance, doesn’t have to manually check receipts anymore. This can now be done automatically, using an algorithm, changing the role of a junior accountant into more of an advisor kind of position.

In line with this, HR administration is nowadays often digitized and in the hands of employees and managers through self-service tools. This reduces the administrative tasks for people like HR advisors, opening up their schedule to focus on value-adding analysis and strategic advice. Similarly, HR reporting is increasingly automated with integrated, self-service dashboards. This enables the data analyst to focus more of their time on more advanced, value-adding reports.

This means that technology automates certain tasks, resulting in job changes. Some jobs will get new tasks, while others disappearing. This process is illustrated in the image below.

Job redesign (also referred to as work redesign) is the process of rearranging these tasks and responsibilities to align them with the changing reality of work.

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Job redesign process

Job redesigning – a structured approach in 5 phases

When it comes to ‘job redesigning’, there is a commonly used five-step approach. This structured job redesign approach will help you navigate through each of these phases.

1. Changing reality

The first phase of job redesigning is a changing reality.

Job redesign becomes relevant when there is a suspicion that job requirements have changed and need to be updated. This can be because tasks are automated and need to be replaced, or because tasks require new skills.

An example of the latter is the increase in digital skills required for working in many jobs. The data is still scarce, but a recent report in the Netherlands found that 50% of workers need to be upskilled in digital skills. These skills depend on the role, of course, but could include blind typing, using software like MS Office, proper use of computers, social media use, and programming. These findings are expected to hold true for all developed nations.

Upskilling required per sector
Upskilling required per sector.

There could also be an organizational incentive for job redesign. When a consulting firm wants to focus their future service offering on giving advice, or when a brick and mortar chain wants to invest in online capabilities, they require different people in sometimes existing roles. This is also where job redesign comes in.

Usually, the changing reality triggers something in the organization that leads to the request for job redesign. For example, a request to look into the digital skills of admin staff may come from a direct manager, while an update of the company’s core values will originate from the C-suite. Depending on the request, your analysis and your stakeholder management will be different.

The goal of the first phase is to identify the changing need and selection of a number of jobs or job categories that are most impacted by this change and therefore should be analyzed for redesigning.

2. Individual job analysis

In the second job redesigning phase, the selected jobs are analyzed. There are different methods to do this, including the Functional Job Analysis, the task inventory, the Job Element Method, narrative task or function descriptions, or the critical incident technique.

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  • In the Functional Job Analysis, the data, people skills, and things required to do the work are recorded.
  • In the task inventory, the tasks are identified and for each task, the importance, time spent, and frequency are recorded.
  • In the Job Element Method, the characteristics of excellent performers are identified to give a more worker-oriented view.
  • Narrative task or function descriptions require interviews with the goal of creating a story that explains the key activities.
  • The critical incident technique zooms in on outstanding performance (either in a good or bad way) and evaluates the context, behaviors, and consequences of those behaviors. The goal here is to come up with behavioral best-practices.

Describing all techniques in detail would go beyond the scope of this article. However, they all boil down to three elements. First, they analyze what tasks are being done now. Second, they rate how important these tasks are. And third, they inquire about the skills required to do the work properly.

The changing reality that was identified in phase 1 will influence these descriptions. It may be the case that tasks are now done improperly and that new skills are required to do the work properly.

3. Core competency analysis

Depending on the scope of the job redesigning project, there may also be a change on the organizational level.

Many organizations work with clearly defined competencies that apply to everyone in the organization. These are called core competencies as they are not function-specific. These competencies are required for everyone in the organization – not at the same level but everyone needs at least a basic proficiency in these.

An example of one of these core competencies comes from the Four Seasons, a hotel chain. One of their core values is ‘service culture’. A quote from the website under the header How we behave: “We demonstrate our beliefs most meaningfully in the way we treat each other and by the example we set for one another. In all our interactions with our guests, customers, business associates and colleagues, we seek to deal with others as we would have them deal with us”. Service orientation is a company-level competency for the Four Seasons and all its staff.

Changing or updating these company-level competencies means that all functions will be affected. This level of analysis is therefore key in job redesigning.

4. Job redefining

In phase four, all the input of the previous phases is used as input to redefine the job. This can be a minor redesign, or the job can be combined with others, effectively disappearing. Depending on the impact and degree to which the job has changed, different stakeholders will be involved.

The key stakeholders should be managed from the get-go but in this phase, you can once again get back to them and check if they agree with your findings. Oftentimes they are better able to put things into perspective as they understand the nuances of their own day-to-day reality better than you.

There is also the employee. Most existing jobs are already occupied by an employee with a unique skill set. Fitting the employee with the job will create a person-job fit which leads to more satisfaction.

Once confirmed, changes to jobs and roles are often codified in the company’s competency framework. Different jobs will be affected differently, but changes will have to be communicated. This is where the last stage comes in, that of the job redesign implementation.

5. Redesign implementation

The final phase is the implementation phase. Here, the work that has been done on the redesign will be officially communicated to different employees, and action will be taken.

Job redesigning efforts may result in learning and development programs that reskill people in the newly required skills. In addition, it may change the criteria based on which people are hired, promoted, compensated and fired. This means that it may also result in people leaving the company. This can be voluntary when people don’t see themselves fit in the new roles, or involuntary when the company does not believe that a person has the ability to be successful in the new role.

A crucial part of this phase is communication. Changes that will impact many people, like updated core values, or the redesign of key job roles, will have to be communicated early and clearly, with ample opportunity for people to get involved and develop themselves towards the new reality. People need to understand the need for change, preferably be involved, and be motivated to go along with it.

Conclusion

The world changes and jobs are changing along with it. Job redesign is one of the tools in the organizational development toolkit. When applied well, it can help to create a job that aligns with the needs of the business and the external environment, while also fitting with the skills and capabilities of the employee. Other techniques that are relevant to read up on before engaging in job redesigning include job design, job enlargement, job enrichment, job rotation, and job simplification. Check out these guides to get a full picture of job redesign!

FAQ

What is job redesign?

Job redesign is the process of rearranging tasks and responsibilities to better align roles with the changing environment inside and outside the organization.

How does job redesign impact organizational performance?

When applied well, job redesign can help to create a job that aligns with the needs of the business and the external environment, while also fitting with the skills and capabilities of the employee.

How do I approach job redesign?

There is a commonly used five-step approach, which can be summarized in the following phases: 1) Changing reality, 2) Individual job analysis, 3) Core competency analysis, 4) Job redefining, 5) Redesign implementation.

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