Why is role clarity important in the workplace?
The traditional way of defining roles as a list of tasks has been found ineffective, a better alternative is the use of Outcome Based Job Definition (OBJD). This means defining the purpose of a job in terms of what it aims to achieve, or its outcomes. By doing so, it creates clarity, fosters motivation and initiative in individuals.
Defining roles in terms of outcomes is a powerful way to increase wellbeing, engagement, and minimise psychosocial risk in the workplace.
Create role clarity with real-world outcomes
Watch the video to understand how unclear goals can lead to stress for employees, and why defining your jobs in terms of real-world outcomes is the best way to create clarity, eliminate confusion and increase productivity..
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Hi, Andrew from SACS.
Welcome to video number six in our eight video sequence on psychosocial risk and its management.
This one’s all about role clarity because it has been demonstrated by a range of different sources that role ambiguity is a psychosocial risk creator and if we can create high levels of role clarity, then we’re going to create a more safe and a more effective workplace, and also it correlates with productivity, so there’s benefits from a wellbeing point of view, but it’s also beneficial from an organisational productivity point of view.
Let’s talk about what role clarity really is though.
Outcome-based job definition
You know, historically, roles have been defined across the world as a list of tasks and this has been found to be ineffective as a way of creating role clarity.
There’s an alternative and this is called outcome-based job definition and that’s how I want to tackle the question of role clarity today.
Real World Outcomes (RWO)
Clarity, for most purposes is five to seven, we call these things real world outcomes.
Think of it this way.
Instead of defining the purposes of organisations or of individuals or of specific jobs as what you should do, think of it as defining them in terms of what you should achieve, what the outcomes would be.
So, if you think of this in a really practical example, if I write a report, the tasks that I undertake, I might consult people, I might sit down and do research, internet-based research or maybe even library-based research or whatever, I might sit at the computer and type.
I mean, those are all things, tasks that need to be undertaken in terms of how I’m going to produce this report.
If you take an outcomes perspective on the report, the outcomes might be the satisfaction of the recipients of that report.
Outcomes might be how the report causes some sort of change in the real world, in other words, it influences people to do things differently.
Those are outcomes.
Now, if you think of any job, any job can be defined in terms of outcomes.
So for instance, if you’re in the disability sector, a support worker, a person who provides direct support to a person with disability, well, customer satisfaction is an important outcome and maybe compliance, not maybe compliance with legislation or policies is an outcome.
Other outcomes might be things like turning up to all of your shifts on time, things like satisfaction of family members, they’re outcomes of the job.
The interesting thing about that though is that if you look at the job definitions in that sector, and I’m not just picking on this sector because it applies to everywhere, the job definitions typically don’t talk about those outcomes.
Now, setting your job definitions as a set of goals, which relate to outcomes can be proved to be extremely motivational for people, but as well as that, it creates a clarity, which tends to take psychosocial risk away.
So the concept is that at an organisational level, you would identify the outcomes that the organisation needs to achieve, the outcomes that need to take place in each of the divisions or departments or groups, the branches, and finally, the individuals.
So you define the success of individuals by the outcomes that they need to achieve, defined and measurable outcomes for each job, and then, the skills that are necessary to deliver the outcomes, the experiential qualifications necessary, the attributes, style, behaviours, approach, those kinds of things that are necessary to deliver these outcomes.
Now, the competencies, by the way, are really most useful when you’re actually recruiting the job, but for defining a role for an individual, helping them to understand the outcomes that they need to achieve and then how those outcomes will be measured, that’s what creates role clarity.
Benefits of RWO
Now, I think another benefit of this form of outcome-based job definition is that it does sponsor a sense of initiative, a sense of innovation, because rather than saying you have to do these things, it’s saying you have to achieve this goal, and it’s kind of encouraging the person to use their own agency, their own originality to come up with ways of achieving that goal, and so that sponsors their sense of initiative that everybody’s saying that people want, that sense of innovation.
Now, if you’ve got roles defined in terms of real world outcomes, then that can be extremely beneficial in areas like workforce planning because if you need to change the purpose of the organisation, that gives you an opportunity to align the outcomes of the staff towards that new workforce plan.
Of course, it can be used in recruitment, engagement and wellbeing when you have outcome-based job definition that increases wellbeing.
Learning and development is useful because training for instance can be geared to the outcomes and competencies necessary.
Remuneration reviews, succession planning, performance development, it’s useful for all of those purposes.
But one of the things that can be really useful about all of this is taking away that role ambiguity.
What does success look like in this job?
“Well, here are four outcomes that you need to achieve “and here’s how we’re going to measure it.
” That reduces role ambiguity and it also reduces the potential conflict in the relationship between staff members and their leaders.
“Oh, we agreed that you’re going to achieve these goals, “you’re achieving them.
“So that creates a simpler form of interaction, a less fraught kind of an interaction.
So, defining jobs in terms of outcomes can be a really powerful thing to do to maximise wellbeing, to maximise engagement, and to minimise psychosocial risk.
Now, the next video in the sequence is all about behaviours because we’re going to talk about the fact that a big psychosocial risk is the behaviours of people around you.
If you have people around you behaving in a positive, supportive, optimistic, solution-focused way, well, pretty much, your problems are over from an interpersonal point of view.
But on the other hand, if people around you are behaving in a way that might be negative or conflictual or of course, even at the great extreme, bullying, then you’ve got a problem.
So join us for the next video to find out what the latest research into creating behaviour protocols says and how therefore, to create a really positive and supportive workplace group by group.
Watch the next video in this series to find out more about Management of Psychosocial Risks:
And watch the previous video here:
And if you’d like some help with promoting psychosocial wellbeing, contact us about our Wellbeing Survey.