Defining Roles and Responsibilities

The benefits of defining roles for employees in a startup

Written by Petri Lehtonen
Updated over a week ago

Defining roles and list of responsibilities doesn’t just help you find the right person for the job you have in hand. It also improves your employee experience and improves the efficiency of your company.

Let’s go through why it’s important for employees to understand their roles and responsibilities and what you can benefit:

Benefits of defining employee roles and responsibilities

Everyone knows what they’re doing

This sounds simple, but when employee roles are clear, people know what’s expected of them, how to behave and what they need to accomplish. Additionally, if they see the importance of their role to the teams’s purpose, and company;s overall success then usually have an extra motivational edge.

Sh*t actually gets done

In high pressure environments, under tight deadlines, tasks fall through the cracks. This is especially true for the tasks which no-one wants to do! When everyone knows their responsibilities, as well as those of others, there is greater ownership and responsibility, making sure nothing gets forgotten or pushed to "someone else".

People cooperate more effectively

There’s less conflict and ‘political’ manoeuvring when desirable, high profile tasks are equally distributed, or tracked to make sure they’re not handed to the same person time after time. Also, individuals have far more respect for colleagues when they can see the vital part they play in the group’s overall success. A respectful environment is more positive, collaborative and creative.

Communication is effective, and improved

And it is not just improvement, but reduced! All those status updates and check-ups become less needed. Think back to your last month. How many slack message, and video calls you made to check what was being done, was someone doing it, who was doing it and when it was expected? Imagine the extra time you can do to move the needle instead.

How do I define a roles for my employee?

Let's start by looking at your current team, and map out the needs and tasks what is required to get work done. Pay special attention to tasks and things which are done rarely, or are done by multiple people in different teams. You should consider what your team needs to do in the future so you don't need to redo this exercise too often.

Great, you have now a list of important things and activities your company needs to function. Next step if to take a list of tasks and needs, and start assigning them to roles and teams. You don't need to go overboard with HR stuff and can instead stay lean on the role definition process.

You can start with the 3 core aspects of a role by minimum and expand the role definitions as you grow.

  • Job description: This is the summary what this role is expected to do. It's not a title, but rather a paragraph which sums up the tasks, function and responsibilties the person holds.

  • Tasks and functions: This is a list of tasks and function what this role holds from the overall list you create previously.

  • Responsibilities: This is a list of aspects of your company's activites and what this role is responsible for. Try to balance this out with the tasks and functions so individuals in question have the ownership of their responisbilities.

Scale-up Role Definitions

When you have an HR in place, you have most certainly heard enough about hiring qualificiation, performance management and competencies. This is the time to expand your role definitions with:

  • Competencies

  • Experience and education requirements

  • Performance management and role indicators

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