How Job Function Surveys Influence Human Resource Strategy

June 15, 2015

In today’s modern workplace, job descriptions, daily duties, and employees themselves need to be as agile as the workplaces in which we work.

It used to be that job descriptions were written and kept in a binder, on a shelf, in the Human Resources Management office. They were dusted off once a year or so, audited, edited and returned to the binder. They were used for filling vacancies and performance reviews.

They were, however, stagnant documents, adding to the view that Human Resources was out of touch.(They were!)

As the role of the Human Resource Manager has evolved into the more strategy minded Human Resource Business Partner, actually knowing what the employees do in the course of day is critical to the HR department being relevant, respected and in touch.

Using Surveys for More Accurate Human Resource Planning

As a strategic human resource manager, it’s important to know what the heck is going on day-to-day. Conducting job function surveys is a great way to ensure that job descriptions accurately reflect employees’ current job duties and responsibilities.

How do you stay in touch with what employees are doing at work? Ask them.

Most HR teams use occasional surveys as part of their strategy, but regular input from job function surveys can provide regular, actionable data that can enable the employees and the business to iterate where necessary.

How to Conduct Regular Job Function Surveys

A job function survey doesn’t need to be overly complicated to be useful and effective. In fact, you wouldn’t want it to be a major time commitment or its usefulness would diminish rapidly.

The survey would simply need to ask employees what they do on a regular basis.

Here are some suggested questions:

  • What are the 3 main functions of your job?
  • What tasks do you do each day?
  • What % of time do you spend on each task?
  • What skills do you use on a regular basis?
  • What skills do you need to learn to be/feel more successful in your job?

Finally, your survey might ask how employees see their role and function impacting the business’ bottom line. You can then determine if their perceived impact is inline with the goals of the business.

Creating a Safe Survey Zone

To get the best data, you want to create a safe situation in which the employee can be honest. You’re not looking for a regurgitation of what their current job description is, but feedback on what they actually do.

For those responsible for managing human resources, conducting these regular checkups may reveal that some employees are taking on too much work. Whether this overload is because of staffing shortages or an employee’s tendency to overcommit, your human resource planning will need to address the situation.

On the other hand, you may find some employees feel busy, yet are doing little valuable work from a business perspective. Again, this situation should be part of your human resource planning.

A strategic HR approach can enable you to reallocate your personnel in response to new information, but you first have to get access to the data by administering the survey.

To avoid burning your employees out, administer the survey on a monthly basis to check workload balances and departmental satisfaction. Observe trends over the course of a quarter or year.

Communicate the results with everyone responsible for managing human resources, as well as the employees themselves. The data will help everyone to identify issues with efficiency as well as confirm the job duties’ alignment with the company’s vision.

Job Function Alignment Leads to Happier Employees

When they can regularly and honestly talk about how they spend their professional lives (and how they feel about it), employees will almost certainly be happier.

Both the employee and employer will benefit from leveraging people’s most valuable skills; consistent feedback is the best way to make sure everyone is adding the most possible value.

Yearly or quarterly employee happiness surveys are great, and they’re certainly something human resources business partners should be doing. But getting a more constant stream of information about how people are experiencing their day-to-day job can be even more valuable.

A More Agile Way for Managing Human Resources

Regular job function surveys offer not only an efficient guide to human resource management; they also create a more agile mindset for HR in general.

Working in an agile organization is exciting, but trying to plan human resource allocation well in advance when teams may pivot every few weeks can be trying.

A strategic approach to human resource management paired with regular surveys about how employees spend their days will give HR the data they need to make well-informed decisions about how best to place the personnel they have.

When surrounded by teams that are constantly evolving, HR departments need access to a regular flow of data about how employees are actually spending their time in order to respond to organizational needs with the required level of agility.

Better Human Resource Management Through Surveys

Check in regularly with how employees are really spending their days. You’ll get happier employees who are using their most valuable skills to help achieve business goals.

Your HR team will also be able to engage in a more agile approach to human resource planning, aligning more rapidly with changing team and business dynamics.

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