Using job structures to improve productivity

The biggest enablers of employee productivity have recently been reported* as:

  • Work that employees find interesting, and
  • Employees being able to use their initiative.

For small and medium sized organisations, the key to unlocking this productivity often lies in effective job design and practical organisation structures, but there is a delicate balance to be achieved.

Clarity Vs Flexibility

We know that SMEs often gain a competitive advantage from their agility, and capacity to respond to changing requirements quickly.  In this context, overly restrictive job roles aren’t helpful.  Employees may have multiple responsibilities or need to pick up different tasks regularly, so flexibility is vital. But in an evolving environment without role clarity, there is an increased risk of efforts being directed toward old priorities. Without clear responsibilities employees are unable to be as efficient, and few organisations can afford the cost of wasted hours.

It is particularly challenging for smaller organisations to balance clarity in roles with flexibility to meet changing demands.  As the organisation grows and more employees are able to share the workload, this needs less conscious attention. The challenge is then avoiding job roles becoming stagnant; ensuring that they don’t get ‘left behind’ as the organisation aims toward it’s next goals.

If we can design or clarify employee’s job roles (the actual job they do, not the bit of paper with the job description on it) to be based on the real purpose that the employee is there to fill, then the ability to get this balance is increased.  A role that is focused on fulfilling a purpose, rather than fulfilling tasks, will inevitably hold more interest for employees.  This also gives a far greater scope for them to use their own initiative in how they meet that purpose, and reduce the need for close management.  Thereby hitting both enablers of improved productivity.

Job Design

In order for any changes in job design to effectively deliver productivity improvements, the relationships in the wider organisation structure also need attention. The right team groupings, meetings or leadership links need to be in place to enable employees to collaborate effectively and avoid duplication.

If you need to increase productivity, reduce micro-management or improve delegation, then looking at job design is an ideal start.  You can download our ‘Designing Job Roles in SMEs’ guide for free on our resources page, which includes 5 key areas to consider.

This seems like a good time of year to remind myself about flexibility and focusing on purpose – if I take the same approach with my New Year’s Resolutions then I may have a chance of sticking to them this year.  At least until February.

*Enablers of productivity according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s latest Employee Outlook survey.