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Role clarity is one of the 17 drivers of employee engagement, yet it’s often overlooked or undervalued. When an employee has role clarity, they understand specifically what is expected of them in their job. They know what tasks they’re supposed to accomplish, what their specific goals are, how their work impacts the larger goals of the business, and how their work will be evaluated and measured. When this clarity is lacking, it can have a major impact on engagement and productivity.

Many of our customers are surprised when they learn their employees are struggling with role clarity. Luckily, it’s a fairly straightforward problem to address.

Managers should be your greatest champions for role clarity.

The first thing to understand before you begin to address role clarity in your organization is that having a job description is not equivalent to having role clarity. Your HR team might write the most fantastic, most in-depth job descriptions out there, but handing one over to a new hire doesn’t mean you can check the box on role clarity and call it a day. A job description is a great recruiting tool and a great starting point for managers, but it’s important that they work together with their direct reports to define the specifics of their roles, agree on personal goals, and determine how they can best benefit the team.

As your business changes and evolves so do your employees’ jobs, so it’s critical for managers and employees to have regular conversations around expectations and be flexible to make adjustments as needed. This gives employees the opportunity to speak up if there’s an area of their role they’re unclear about or a new challenge they’d like to take on. This open dialogue not only helps with role clarity but also strengthens the employee-manager relationship, and can lead to a greater sense of purpose for employees. (Purpose and the manager relationship are also engagement drivers—so it’s a win-win … win!)

Don’t assume more tenured employees have role clarity.

It makes sense that a new hire would need extra help understanding what is expected of them in their new job. But don’t overlook your more tenured employees and assume they’re already completely clear on their roles. Our research shows that employees who’ve been at their company for 20 years or more actually scored the lowest on role clarity compared to other tenures (employees with 2-3 year tenures were a close second).

Perhaps they’ve moved to a new department recently or a new process was put into place and they’re not clear on how it affects their assigned tasks. Or maybe, they’ve never had a clearly defined role ever—and could really benefit from one.

Have employees document their own roles.

After managers and employees have conversations about job responsibilities and expectations, have each employee document what they understand to be the specifics of their role, then share that documentation back with their manager. The format of the documentation doesn’t really matter (and shouldn’t need to take up too much of an employee’s time), what matters is that the employee writes/types the specifics of what tasks they’re responsible for, what is expected of them (and in what timeframe), and what their personal goals are. This way, the manager can make sure they’re aligned, and the employee has a crystal clear understanding of what they’re supposed to be doing and how their success will be measured. Helping your employees achieve this level of role clarity will help them be more productive and will make a lasting impact on engagement.

Want to learn more about the drivers of employee engagement and how to make an impact in your own organization? Check out our latest employee engagement trends report for research from real companies and real employees like yours.

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