Historically, an organisation used a predict-and-plan operating model suited to stable business environments. However, in the new world of constant change and uncertainty, organisations need to be set up to sense-and-respond to emerging challenges. In HR, the concept of job families is one example of a practice that needs revising to stay relevant. Clustering a set of roles into a ‘job family’ allowed for transparency in rewards, promotions and career paths, but today this can create artificial barriers to collaboration and personal development. They are also coupled with annual yearly performance review and promotion cycles, which no longer reflect employee needs and expectations. Motivation and incentivisation has shifted – people expect a more constant stream of learning opportunities and are increasingly driven by autonomy, flexibility and meaningful work.

Some organisations have begun to design job families based on shared competencies. This introduces flexibility, but it is often coupled with categorisation into specific roles and career paths. An organisation should instead identify the competencies they need to achieve their strategic goals so that an individual can then build a competency portfolio that adds as much value as possible. Typically, their development plan will not reflect a strict career path, but rather the continual iteration of their portfolio. Teams can also map combinations of competencies that are highly valuable to them, and which are increasingly cross-functional, allowing an employee more fluidity when shaping their future.

Throwing out job families is a good start to rethinking your talent strategy; but it is only step one. There are many follow-on effects that need to be adapted to digital talent needs. We need to also redesign the way we motivate, learn & develop, reward & promote. It won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, but here are some initial considerations:

  • Move away from hierarchical structures. Creating flatter and more connected horizontal structures will help motivate employees and increase the adaptability of the organisation. Employees will be more autonomous, collaborative and engaged with their work and will be less focused on promotion.
    • NASA developed a lattice structure which allowed employees to move up/down or across the organisation to learn and develop competencies, with no impact on pay.
  • Experiment with the methodology (and regularity) of how you reward. Many companies are experimenting with how they can link rewards to performance in a clear and transparent way. Some have gone for radical transparency (making everyone’s salary public); others have let peers – or even employees themselves – set their salary.
    • See Haier who paid everyone a base salary + bonus directly related to achievements, or Semco who have a profit sharing scheme.

For further reading on related topics: