A Holistic cure for your Job Description?


by Ken Ingram

Holistic medicine approaches the health of an individual by looking at all aspects of an individual’s life and circumstances. So, imagine for a moment for the moment if you could look at a job description in a similar fashion. Let’s rename it as well to a ‘Holistic position description’ and start to look at the position needed from all different directions. Why consider this you may ask, well a holistic approach results in an employee who is more able and motivated to do a superior job. Job Descriptions often sit in personnel files, unseen, providing little motivation or guidance to the employee. It is a poorly used leadership tool and most organizations get little value from doing them. Smaller organizations usually don’t have them at all and Medium organizations tend to establish them and not keep them current.

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Therefore, I would like to propose that a more effective approach and a tool that would better serve both employee and the organization is to look at them from a ‘holistic’ point of view.

Beyond obvious financial questions, most people want to know four things about their job:

  1. They want to know clearly what they are expected to do and how well they are expected to do it.
  2. They want to see that they are contributing to something significantly positive in society.
  3. They want to see clearly how their efforts make a real difference to both internal and external customers.
  4. They want the opportunity for personal growth in their knowledge and skills.

A holistic position description should help an employee see that each of these things is possible to achieve. The key to this is to link the functions of the job to what the organization wants to accomplish. A ‘holistic’ approach looks at the position from two directions, vertical and horizontal.

Vertical Approach

The job description should be linked to the organization’s mission and values. This is the vertical integration and links the organization’s goals to the individual’s goals. Since the organizations goals may change each year so should the link with the individual’s goals.

The challenge is to link the central purpose of the organization with the description of the individual’s position by having a Position Purpose that begins with a statement like, “The purpose of the person fulfilling this role is to contribute to the following………………..”

As an example, in the case of a ‘logistics company’, which organizes and arranges shipments of goods around the continent. Starting with the broadest mission, work down the organizational structure to the employee.

The Entire Organization:

  • Mission: “We save our clients time and money by providing on time, efficient shipments of goods to their customers”.
  • Its “values” would be statements about integrity, quality, employee development and growth.

The Operations Department:

  • Mission: “To ensure out client’s goods are delivered on time every time and the lowest possible cost”.

A Logistics Database Operator: (The individual’s position)

  • Mission: “To contribute to the mission of the organization by maintaining a data base of trucking companies that consistently meet deadlines and operate in the most efficient way possible.”

When an employee sees how their purpose in the organization contributes to the organization’s purpose and understands the value that the organization brings to society, they see their job has meaning and value. The vertical approach makes this link.

The horizontal approach shows how they contribute to the welfare of others.

Horizontal Approach

The job description should point out that the role the employee is expected to aware of the other roles of their ‘internal customers’, those people who directly receive the outputs from their efforts. The job description should also point out that the employee is the ‘internal customer’ of certain people and that there is a responsibility and expectations to coordinate efforts with these people.

It should also be clear how the person is expected to contribute to team meetings and projects; that they are to lend certain expertise and to take a leadership role, liaise with other teams as appropriate.

Our logistics operator, for example, would understand that their internal customers are the people who arrange the shipments for the clients. These people expect to have a list of current trucking operators. This person would be expected to report to team meetings about general trends in trailer availability and costs as well as respond to requests for trucking companies in specified geographical areas.

When the role that a position plays in an organization is developed from a ‘holistic’ perspective, the employee fulfilling the role knows clearly what they are expected to do. And their work has true meaning because they can see how they can make a real difference in other peoples’ lives when they do the job well. They see these things in terms of the part they play in the contribution that the organization makes to society. They also understand how they can play a part in what others in the organization contribute.

Employees who see clearly that they are making a positive difference take stronger ownership of the results they achieve, they find a source of internal motivation to do the job in the best way possible, they use their ingenuity and creativity to find better ways, they develop and use more of their potential to bring their contribution to an even higher level.

Do you have the audacity to build a Holistic Job description? For each of your employees.

Kenneth (Ken) Ingram, MQA

The Achievement Centre – Montreal/Ottawa

5436 Royalmount, TMR, H4P 1H7


www.TACresults.com – www.TACfocus.com

Member of the Worldwide Association of Business  Coaches