Describing jobs destroys them

A traditional HR advisor is triggered by job descriptions, competence matrices and documents in which these are all extensively described. And you know, I understand why. Job descriptions were meant to structure and explain pay schemes. But they have become obsolete. Job descriptions have become a restraint on the talent in your organization.

Policies prevent freedom
A warehouse full of (X) files determining how you should act

Why job descriptions were created

Job descriptions were created a time long ago, when everyone had a boss. The main responsibility of HR departments was providing the correct salary on time, and they had as little to do with the actual employees as possible (not unlike the boss). Some people had the same job their entire life, and you were not expected to think about possible improvements for the company – the boss obviously knew better what the company and its employees were supposed to do.

In order to explain differences in salaries, HR was tasked with creating a system with different levels of responsibilities relating to competences. This complicated system was provided to the employees, telling them it was fair with the added bonus of showing what the possibilities for growth were.

Times have changed

Fortunately, organizations have realized their mistake and have adopted a more pleasant and modern way of working. Instead of using people as resources which you have to put at the right place at a conveyor belt, organizations have realized people are actually the most valuable asset of the organization, who can help make everything better.

A world without jobs

We don’t have job descriptions at TOPdesk. Never had them. We believe it is important that all colleagues are considered equally important, no matter their (lack of) experience or responsibilities. Everyone is different and excels only when you take their personal talents into account. That’s why we do not force them into a job description with associated competences. There isn’t even a job title in your contract. It simply states you will do things for the company TOPdesk.

One of the main advantages of this is that it stimulates initiatives. Whether you are the director or a software tester, you can share your ideas. And if people like the idea, you are actually made responsible for making it a reality. We want to remove any obstacle that prevents people from excelling at their work. Do you think something is useful for the organization, but you are not hired to do it? Just do it anyway!

Another advantage is that it stimulates internal growth and exchange. At TOPdesk, you can always change your main responsibilities without actually having to adjust your contract. We have even simplified our entire salary system to facilitate this: everyone starts at the exact same salary. That way you are not stuck in a certain job you don’t like anymore, just because it pays more than the job you would actually want to do.

An agile organization

Our lack of job descriptions makes us more agile. When we wanted to implement a more agile way of working, where people from different departments work together in a team in order to better service customers, this was no problem from an HR perspective. We had no policies, competence matrices or salary systems that prevented this change. Colleagues could simply sit together and start working in a new way to see if it worked, and expand that way of working afterwards.

A necessary evil?

Unfortunately, it is hard to organize your company without any form of policy or system. A small number of rules can give clarity to your employees and stimulates their growth. For example, we at TOPdesk still have quite a classic way of organizing our departments, even though the people in the departments work across the boundaries.

What is most important is that you should try to think from your colleagues’ perspective. HR should be about people. How will they perform best? Not by trapping them in a web of rules, but by agreeing on a set a basic rules and give them the freedom to do what they think is best.

Which obstacles do you create?

Are you brave enough to throw away your old-fashioned way of organizing if you notice that it is counterproductive? Why don’t you try a new way of working on a small-scale, learn from the test, and expand on the good parts. Policies and systems can be a good thing, but happy and excelling employees are best.