Are Your Position Descriptions An Organizational Barrier?

Position descriptions are used to outline the major duties of the job.  However, they are not intended to cover every kind of work assignment a position may include.  Some organizations are so restrictive in their thinking, that employees are forced to stay within the confines of their position description, but a cost to employee engagement, innovation, and creativity.

 We can agree that position descriptions have a valid place within organizations but they cannot be so restrictive as to deter employees from contributing their ideas and talents.  Effective diverse management requires organizations to create an environment where diverse stimuli are leveraged to achieve organizational outcomes.  Managers must be trained to see beyond position descriptions to identify employee talents that may be beneficial to the problem-solving and decision-making process.  If not, position descriptions become an organizational barrier.

Since position descriptions are used as the basis for advertising and recruitment, it is essential that they be as broad as possible to reach the widest possible audience.  I recall working on a recruitment campaign for law enforcement positions, which traditionally has low numbers of women and minorities.  The organization wanted to go to the top schools for criminal justice to find candidates.  I understood the logic, but it clearly was not effective in reaching the targeted audiences (as evidenced by the lack of improvement in workforce demographics.)  I targeted women colleges, which are mostly liberal arts schools, and was very successful in recruiting women.  Instead of focusing on the physical requirements of the position, we focused on the opportunities to serve as victim witness coordinators, criminal research specialists, and community liaison duties.  However, if you read the position description, none of these duties would be included.  If the position description is the basis for the job announcement and the recruiter relies upon the announcement, then the position description can become an organizational barrier to achieving a diverse workforce.

This is an area where diversity practitioners and human resource professionals can collaborate.  When conducting annual organizational assessments, diversity practitioners should include a review of existing position descriptions.  If it is determined that position descriptions are limiting employee opportunity, recruitment, and hiring, then organizations need to engage the workforce in the process of transforming the way positions are classified and advertised.  Just a suggestion!

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