6 key steps in analyzing job descriptions for the future of work

Job descriptions are essential to every organization, and are foundational elements of a number of critical functions—from talent management, to determining compensation, to supporting pay equity and fair hiring practices.

Yet, as important as these job descriptions are to the viability of a business, in most organizations, they’re not active managed or updated.  Most focus only on the skills required to perform specific jobs today, not how those positions will morph and change over time. As fast as the business world is evolving, that “of the moment” approach could present a problem down the line.

“We often think of job descriptions as representing what a job currently entails. We really need to change that paradigm to encompass not only what the job looks like today, but what it will look like in the future,” explained Don Berman, Co-founder and VP of Sales and Marketing for  JDXpert.

All you have to do to recognize how quickly things can change is to look back over the past 20 months.

Remote work has moved from a pandemic pivot to business as usual for many organizations. This shift impacts how companies recruit and manage talent, in addition to necessitating that managers develop new skillsets to effectively coach this virtual workforce.

A competitive job market, fallout from The Great Resignation, and a labor shortage in some categories may necessitate a company’s use of contract workers in roles that were previously filled by full-time employees. That changes the  dynamic, and the job description, as well.

But, the most significant factor impacting job descriptions is the proliferation and broad availability of advanced technology.

Advancements in Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are enabling companies to offload redundant, repetitive tasks to machines, and focus their human workforce on more strategic, higher-level work. Block chain, Big Data, quantum computing and other emerging technologies are also impacting the work that people do. Some jobs will be eliminated, while other jobs  could require additional or different skillsets going forward.

To stay competitive, companies have to actively prepare for the change.

“Understanding the future of  work and planning for those changes now is essential to creating a viable recruiting strategy that extends beyond the present day,” Berman said.  “You have to invest time and resources in understanding how new technologies will impact your business on a macro level, as well as how those technologies will impact individual jobs.”

Berman recommends adding a “Future of Work” revision to your standard job description review process, so you not only determine the skillsets needed today, but set the stage for the future.

During this analysis, reviewers should:

  1. Determine if the job has a future. Is it in a stable state or will it be phased out or automated in the near future? For example, someone doing data entry may no longer be needed if system upgrades planned for the upcoming year automate the movement of that data from one system to the other.
  2. Define how far in the future you’re projecting. Is your “future” one year, three years or five years down the road? The answer will be different for different companies, depending on the technological roadmap, industry and other factors.
  3. Identify if the job will have the same title in the future. The goal is to ensure that the title appropriately describes the position, so, it attracts the right candidates.
  4. Apply new employment modes. Does the job need to be filled with an FTE or could it be a part-time job for two candidates? Does it need to be filled with a hire, or could it be performed by a contractor or gig worker? In tight labor markets, it makes sense to look at different options to broaden your available talent pool.
  5. Analyze the current tasks for the job and model what these will look like in the future. “Look at which of the current tasks could be impacted by technology. Then, write those as a future analog of what that task will look like with that technology applied,” Berman said. “You may find that some of the current tasks can be deleted, or new ones added. The goal is to represent the tasks for that job as they would be represented in your future horizon.”
  6. Review all the future functions. After determining what tasks are required to perform the job in the future, use a skills library to identify what skills a candidate would need to support that future analog, compared to the skills required today.

This analysis, which should be performed at least annually, gives companies a clear picture of what the organization will look like in the years to come, what types of training existing employees will need to perform their jobs, and the type of talent required to fill the future pipeline.

“By taking this forward-looking view of your workforce, you prepare your organization for the impact of technology, and give your company a competitive advantage,” Berman said.

The companies that come out on top will be those with the agility to adapt to a business environment that will inevitably continue to change, and are ready when the time comes.

Watch the full video here.