Let us adapt jobs to people

Conventional business thinking seeks to find the “right person for the job”. Imagine we did the opposite: Imagine if we worked hard to “find the right job for the person”.

Most jobs fit most persons quite badly. I am a mathematician by education, but I can do ten times more than that: textwriting, photography, drama, lead others, author, professor, manage finances, think out new visions, develop new products and services, sell, sing and dance! Imagine I took a job as, CTO, Chief Technology Officer, which is what my formal qualifications would justify (I was once deputy director of Risø National Laboratory!). I would be able to evaluate new technologies and plan projects and establish contracts with other institutions and suppliers. But this would only make use of ten per cent of my capabilities and I would be bored to death.

So I suggest we turn HR upside down: Let us take the people we have, as the starting point, and let us then establish a mechanism that will allow each person to design his or her dream job. Something that makes use of much more of our capabilities.

The result: Happier people and so much more energy and action.

Why not?

16 kommentarer til “Let us adapt jobs to people”

  1. Frank Calberg

    Reflecting on what you listed in your posting that you can do, for example text writing, photography, leading others, thinking out new visions, developing new products and services, and selling, I was thinking that, for example on this blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook, you’re actually doing just that. As the tools are very efficient working tools, my question would be who pay you to work using these tools: Do the companies you write about? Does the government when you write about topics that benefit citizens? Do advertisers? What experiences do you have?

  2. Lars Kolind

    Nobody pays me for writing this blog – I do it for a cause, which is to stimulate innovation and relevance of organisations.
    Just like I am involved in Scouting for a cause: To develop tomorrow’s leaders.

  3. Stephan E

    I agree to the basic problem analysis. In large organisations, one of the main reasons people leave is because neither HR nor the line organisation pay enough attention to individual meaning in the job outlook.

    But at the same time this is old news and the solutions suggested is already happening – jobs are created or adapted to the people and that has been going on for a long time.

    The problem is that it is not a simple equation. Problems are usually a lot more complicated than hierachical responsibilities can cope with.

    Instead organisations use teams to deal with complicated problems. And teams takes time to build and mature, so either problems have to be vital enough to justify a “task force” or persistent enough to justify a longterm team. Shortterm or changing problems are not simple to organise around.

    In short – I think we should seperate the issue of the joint interest in getting the best value from talent and the organisational issue of mapping talents to problem solving.

  4. Per Feldvoss Olsen

    Sure this is already happening, sure this is the way to go – and sure there are many successful business that does not run this way. However the real leadership challenge is to realize that getting to this is an attractive situation. The leader will create an environment where this situation is the more likely outcome.

    The key to this kind op leadership again points to ‘the purpose’ – if the purpose is just an other goal or a set of values, then “the job adaption” is still just spin. So in general you will have to realize how different ‘purpose’ is from the normal “value based” paradigm. (Stephan, this is not a normal problem analyses, it is rather like discovering an highly potential option).

    The paradox is however that the “old leadership” can gladly count ‘the success of purpose’ as a result of that old leadership. That is, when (by luck or skill) the purpose overrules the goals, and when this is a success we will still see this as the result of “leadership” – even when leadership (in the old sense) was never involved. So perhaps your employes run the business in spite of all your brave attempts to be a leader – a tough thing to realize – indeed the entire society runs inspirit of politics.

    The joint challenge for the employe and the leader is to create a situation where creating your own job is an option. The question is then what are the tools of that trade.
    Regards Per – not what is, but what can be!

  5. Stephan E

    Per

    I dont disagree, but be carefull that unless operationalised this can easily turn into a position of argument that is tautological.

    You can never be in a position where leadership is perfect, so employees will always, to some extent, “override” structures and management.

    The worse the “management”, the more organisation energy is used to override it – and sure “old management” will even still claim the credit of results they were blocking.

    The point, however, also works the other way around – having an organisation of individuals working, without leadership chosen, purpose/structure makes the organisation meaningless.

    The market will kill organisations without structure and purpose (that guides the processes) as it does not provide synergy of applied ressources.

    A “purpose” is a leadership statement of choice that depends on what the organisation needs to provide enough synergy to justify its existence – it is subject to change according to the situation.

    If the purpose is too abstract, people just chose their own interpretation and synergies do not emerge. If purpose is too specific, it likely inhibit creativity and thus also innovation whereby dissynergies emerge.

    We can have purpuse-only organisations without structure, e.g. Charordic structures but in my understanding they are rare, often non-stabile and hard to establish by choice. They seem to tend to grow out of necesity rather than deliberate planning.

    In the end, you as an individual are your own organisation as you can – and both will and should – always change employer if your ambitions are bigger than your oppourtunities in the present organisation.

    Selfemployment or entrepreneurship is the ultimate form as it require yourself to build an entire organisation with purpose, structure and market position.

    I am only cautioning operationalisation instead of making self-evident statements without guidence value.

    The degree you let people “design their own jobs”, you need to have business cases, structures and purpose to match.

    Business strategy is a constant battle of changing the complex mix of variables with moving targets and increasingly more fierce competition.

    There are no rights or wrongs – only something that works right now or dont. Good practices gets copied and loose their strategic power ever faster calling for new innovation.

  6. Per Feldvoss Olsen

    @Stephan
    I would argure that there are some catalyzing leadership elements that could enable us to do what Lars suggests – 1) you could use the value based approach, that would enable a (pseudo-)version of the suggestion – or you could 2) define a purpose that would fully allow you to define your own job – within the ‘purpose’ definition naturally. Many would be happy with option #1, and naturally there would many in between cases.

    Stretching this a bit further you (Stehpan) might very well pay a guy to work for the ‘Tryg foundation’, perhaps pushing some of his/your concepts – since you all share the same general purpose. Regarding “business cases” for this – last week I was at an arrangement with a manager for (look at:) http://www.e-types.com/33861/, he actually claimed that they did a lot of things without having a business case…. the only bennefit would be “expand the job/client” expirience….. my interpetation.
    regards Per

  7. Stephan E

    The question is not WHETHER an organisation needs a stated purpose including a strong value-platform, but what purpose statement is right for a specific organisation.

    We cant all have a “For a better world”-statement as that would become meaningless. You cannot say that all pump-manufactures should “provide clean water”.

    Similar. You cannot make any job self-customised as that would render the organisation meaningsless. Every organisation needs to find its own balance in “adapting jobs to people” including how you build teams rather than one-man attack machines. It is a continous circle of learning, doing and redesigning just as the market and competition is changing.

  8. Arne Jacobsen

    Well spoken Lars!
    Sometimes “things” are so simple that you don’t see them. But if one does, like you do here, turn them upside down, they shine clearly!
    As a teacher working in the danish school system for more than 30 years I can see, that if we hired new teachers like you propose, it would “revolutionize” all the danish school systems. Oh, I hope this would happen some day…;-)

    In danish we use the word ANSÆTTELSE for hiring someone for a job. I think this word (and the phrase: hiring for a job) speaks for itself…….?

  9. Steffen Brysting

    I agree that you could get bored in a job, if you’re only using one or two of your many skills, and that the company should be aware of special/additional skills among the employees, so that these skills can be used, when it is relevant. But does a job have to cover all of the skills of an employee?
    Perhaps the person in the job would like to save some of the skills/talents (fx singing, dancing, photography or novell writing) for his/her spare time in order to keep a clear difference between job and private life?
    If the company is open minded and ready to do an effort to use special skills of the employee, this could surely be a topic for the yearly job conversation between boss and employee.

    Kind regards
    Steffen

  10. Erik Micheelsen

    Well Lars, a mathematician yet being a CEO at a hearing aid company was a fit and a match!

    Your question delves very much to the heart of what I work with on a day to day basis. Aligning people. Not with “what they want to be” (a great leader, the inventor, a sales guru) and the jobs they might apply for from that position.

    But rather with “who they are”. And form that position – what would you do.

    The difference is huge. My experience is that the vast majority of people keep trying to “set themselves up” such that they “then can be happy”.

    It’s much better for people to find out what they are about because from that position they are able to open doors that are close for anyone else.

    My experience is that is easy to get people aligned this way. The hurdle, I find, is the challenge his brings to traditional “leaders” (did I just say managers?). The reason is, once in this position, people know how best to apply themselves to insure the continued success of the business they work for.

    And that might mean breaking a lot of company rules regarding modus operandi and actually going for outcomes they cannot rationally justify.

    May I ask this question! When it comes to innovation and organisation – who knows what the jobs are ahead of time?

    And another: Lars – why do you point to HR to achieve the outcomes you are looking for? Are you certain they have the qualifications?

  11. Erik Micheelsen

    Please excuse and omit the article above and read nearly the same article below!!

  12. Erik Micheelsen

    Well Lars, a mathematician yet being a CEO at a hearing aid company was a fit and a match!

    Your question delves very much into the heart and soul of what I work with on a day to day basis. Aligning people. Not with “what they want to be” (a great leader, the inventor, a sales guru) and the jobs they might apply for from that position.

    But rather with “who they are”. And from that position – what would you do do?

    The difference is huge. My experience is that the vast majority of people keep trying to “set themselves up” such that they “then can be happy”.

    It’s much better for people to find out what they are about because from that position they are able to open doors that are closed to anyone else.

    My experience is that is easy to get people aligned this way. The hurdle, I find, is the challenge this brings to traditional “leaders” (did I just say managers?).

    The reason is, once in this position, people know how best to apply themselves to insure the continued success of the business they work for.

    And that might include breaking a lot of company rules regarding modus operandi and actually going for outcomes they cannot rationally justify when it comes to execution.

    May I ask this question! When it comes to innovation and organisation – who knows what the jobs are ahead of time?

    It’s much better if the jobs are bound to outcome. Then have the people who find themselves aligned to the very same outcomes, describe the job function, performance criteria etc.

    And another question: Lars – why do you point to HR to achieve the outcomes you are looking for? Are you certain they have the qualifications?

  13. Lars Kolind

    I count on HR because I have lost faith in many CEO’s that tend to stay in their jobs by playing power games rather than by adding value.

  14. Erik Micheelsen

    I get your point about CEO’s! And I experience something similar.

    But you’re asking HMR to be of service to the organisation as it transits from a production capacity to a knowledge capacity (vis a vis your blog http://kolindkuren.dk/2009/10/01/fra-hrm-til-people-excellence/)

    That means putting them in a position where they have to explain/communicate the practicle and operational difference between working with concrete objectives and working with conceptual objectives.

    If you do not know how to turn conceptual objectives into practice, there is no way you’re company can be a knowledge company.

    As I see it, this is where the meat is.

    Did you not write “from profit to purpose”? That makes total sense conceptually. It makes no sense what so ever from a concrete understanding.

    So, does HR have the mental toolset to work conceptually? And can they transfer that knowledge to the CEO?

    What do you think?

  15. Daily Lifestream update (November 17th)

    [...] Shared Let us adapt jobs to people. [...]

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