HUMAN RESOURCES – Are We Witnessing the End of the Fixed Job?

By Darnell Dobson, Contributing writer

The secret has long been out. How we define the concept of work has undergone major changes due to signif- icant advancements in technologies and behavioural practices. Organizations are redefining job roles, moving away from the idea of fixed roles and job specifications within organizations to more flexible and open roles in order to suit an ever growing multi-skilled workforce.

However, Jacob Morgan, author and speaker, believes the emergence of multi-skilled workers will not signal the end of their specialized skill counter- parts:“ I think there’s going to be room in the future workforce for both types of employees,” he explains, “those who have multiple skills, kind of the jack of all trades, and those that are really only good at a particular thing but they are also really good at evolving their knowledge of that particular thing.”

Morgan further adds that the challenge employees with specialized skills — those who are not good learners — face is that if they are very good at one particular thing and that thing changes or gets augmented to technological advancements, then the person with the specialized skill is now facing an uphill battle within their organization.

Learn how to Learn

We are not witnessing the end of the specialized skill worker, instead all employees must be willing to learn, adapt and grow, in order to maintain their value to their organization. To this end, Morgan says that whether you’re an employee that possesses multiple skills sets or you are an individual with specialized skills, your ability to learn new things is vital to your success.

“There’s a few sides to it,” Morgan continues. “There’s the skills that the employee has, that’s one aspect and that is important, and the second aspect is the ability of employees to learn new things.” He also urges employers to focus on hiring individuals who can learn and adapt quickly rather than hiring them solely for the skills they posses, “their ability to learn new skills and grow skills that they need to fit the job, that’s the most important thing.”

Paying Attention to the Tangential

“Everybody starts off with a specialized skill, you’re good at marketing for example, and the problem is that most people would do a very narrow focus just on marketing, so when I say pay attention to the tangential, it’s looking at what things might be just outside your core skill set that you might be able to apply your skills to,” Morgan explains. Learning how to learn and paying attention to the tangential are the two most crucial skills Morgan believes all employees should have in their arsenal. He also says that current and propective employees should take more accountability for their growth by being proactive and teaching themselves all the things you need to be successful instead of waiting on a company or the school they attended to teach it to them.

From Hierarchal to Flat Organization Structures

Tom Haak founder and director of The HR Trend Institute, says that a major cause of this change to the workforce is that organizations are straying from the traditional hierarchal organization structure to a more flexible structure of management. In an article written for the Institute’s website Haak says that organisations, where everybody has clearly defined jobs, often do not work especially when the task is not clearly defined. Therefore, “the jobs become more flexible, and em- ployees get the opportunity to craft their own job, to make the best fit with their wishes, needs and their capabilities.”

This process of giving employees the opportunity to construct their own role within the organization is known as job crafting and Haak says that many organizations go above and beyond this concept. “When there is an assignment, there is a process to look at the capabilities (qualitative and quantitative) required for this specific assignment. The wishes, needs and capabilities of people con- nected to the organisation are known, or captured as part of the process. A team is established, where the availability of people and the requirements of other teams must be taken into account. Teams are not built of people with specific fixed jobs, but by people who have specific skills that are needed to deliver the assignment,” Haak says.

Having Multi-skilled Employees in your Organization

Pros

COST EFFICIENCY

Having employees that can perform multiple roles well can reduce the expenses your organization incurs due to wages and training. Hiring can be a complicated process therefore any way that simplifies the process will save your organization time and money.

INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY

Multi-skilled employees are able to get more work done with less com- pany resources used. As Management Study Guide elaborates, “Rather than appointing five new people for a particular process, a multi-skilled employee can do everything on his own. In such a case, you do not need five computers, telephones, drawers, or workstations but just one.” One person doing the equivalent of five, with efficiency and high output, can only help your organization.

INCREASED FOCUS LEVELS

More work means more responsibility and less time for distractions if you’re an employee who has taken on multiple roles within an organization. Employees are more likely to be engaged and focused on the tasks at hand and less likely to be “slacking off” if they are performing multiples roles at the same time.

Cons

WORKPLACE BURNOUT

A major concern for organizations is constantly ensuring that employees enjoy coming to work. An effective way of doing this is proper workload management. However, performing multiples roles within an organization at the same time can lead to employees succumbing to the pressure of handling multiple responsibilities simultaneously.

DECREASED PRODUCTIVITY

Taking on multiple roles within an organization can also lead to a drop in employee productivity. In many cases, employees struggle to get all assigned tasks completed by their appropriate deadlines, which can negatively impact the running of your business.

HEAVY DEPENDENCY ON EMPLOYEES

Organizations must ensure that an over reliance on individuals capable of performing multiple roles does not become an issue or else your business could be left in a precarious situation should an employee leave on a temporary or permanent basis.

About Jacob Morgan Jacob Morgan is one of the world’s leading authorities on the future of work, employee experience, and how the workplace is changing. He is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who advises business leaders and organizations around the world.