Several features of Carrier Management’s October 2023 Spotlight newsletter, “How to Attract Talent: Job Description Basics,” provide insurance industry-specific advice about what modern job descriptions and hiring practices should look like.

But the topic is also popular in non-insurance publications.

Carrier Management Articles in CM’s October 2023 Spotlight newsletter: “How to Attract Talent: Job Description Basics” include:

Below we provide a sample of some of the advice you can find beyond our Carrier Management online posts and pages, starting with a recently published article from Harvard Business Review.

It’s Not My Job. Imagine a company that hires an employee, specifying a set of tasks to fulfill the role in its job description, but then changes its strategic priorities a few months down the road. New tasks take precedence, and the employee may very well have the skills that align with new priorities.

Will he or she take them on?

Maybe not, suggests Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, the author of the HBR Oct. 6, 2023 article, “A New Approach to Writing Job Descriptions,” noting that the employee can point to that job description to decline new tasks because they weren’t hired to do those. Nieto-Rodriguez, a project management champion and author of the Harvard Business Review Project Management Handbook, advises moving job descriptions away from “static, holistic descriptions” that stay with employees for years, instead working toward “dynamic guidance that changes based on needs.”

Flexible job descriptions can be based on outcomes, skills or teams to keep pace with the rate of change in modern organizations.

An outcome-focused approach for a sales manager, for example, would list desired outcomes like “increase regional sales by 15 percent” rather than tasks like “prepare sales reports on a monthly basis.”

A skills-focused description could allow a data analyst with superior visualization skills to move off his or her activities focused on data model creation activities into a role that calls for designing visual reports when needed for a particular project.

Teams-based approaches assign outcomes and deliverables to teams, leaving it up to team members to decide how each member will contribute.

The article review some of the challenges, including legal ones, and tips for overcoming them.

Source: “A New Approach to Writing Job Descriptions,” Harvard Business Review, Oct. 6, 2023

Don’t Sound Toxic. Do your company’s job descriptions include phrases like “must thrive under pressure” or “fast-paced environment” or “high tolerance of ambiguity?”

Those phrases, and two others, are a tip-off to job seekers that the organizational culture may be toxic, according to Mark Murphy, founder of “We all want to be the kind of person who thrives under pressure, but when you see this phrase in a job ad, it can signal that the company often operates in crisis mode, with employees expected to regularly manage high-stress situations without adequate support,” he wrote in a Forbes article in March 2023

“High tolerance for ambiguity” in a job description may reveal a company that lacks clear communication or defined goals, or one where the work environment is just chaotic, he writes, also identifying phrases that indicate companies with low regard to work-life balance and burnout.

In the article, Murphy also advises job seekers to look for organizations that are a good fit for their personalities, describing four types of organizational cultures—social, dependable, enterprising and hierarchical—to guide them in finding the right match.

Source: “How To Spot A Toxic Culture From A Job Ad,” Forbes, March 21, 2023

Video Job Descriptions. Do you want your job description to stand out from the crowd? Consider a video, an infographic, a comic strip or an interactive quiz, advise LinkedIn editors in a post titled, “Creative job description formats.”

According to the post, the average job seeker spends 14 seconds on a job description before deciding whether to apply for a position. (The statistic comes from a LinkedIn’s survey of 450 members from the LinkedIn Market Research community, conducted in partnership with Vision Critical. Members represented a range of industries, job functions and career stages.)

“Determining which of these alternative formats works best for your organization will come down to experimentation. But, by taking an innovative approach to your job description, you can gain a competitive advantage,” the LinkedIn post says.

For each alternative format, the post provides reasons to consider the format, tips for getting started and examples of job descriptions in the alternative format.

“Make sure to keep it short and interesting” the LinkedIn post says, providing a couple of ideas for developing video job descriptions that “feature real employees…in an authentic way.” One to three minutes is ideal, and finding ways to “templatize” the video—using common intros and outros for multiple roles—will make the videos easy to repurpose.

Why use an interactive quiz instead? A quiz can help candidates self-assess if they have the skills needed for the role. Infographics and comic strips, on the other hand, appeal to visual learners.

Source: “Creative job description formats,” LinkedIn Talent Solutions post

Don’t Put People in a Box. Engaged employees today are “constantly acquiring new skills and crossing previously well-defined lines to boost productivity and work quality,” states Tyrone Smith, an executive and organizational strategy coach in a 2021 Harvard Business Review article, arguing for a “profound reimagining” of job titles and job descriptions that adapt roles along with technological advances.

He offers the examples of changing the titles of “Receptionist” and “Customer Service Representative” to “Practical Director of the Customer Experience” and “Voice of the Customer Lead.” The revised receptionist title “conveys the projects the employee will be handling without putting them in a box where their skills are only used behind a reception desk,” he writes, pointing to consumer-facing skills that make receptionists valuable team members.

Using the CSR role to illustrate the revision of job descriptions, Smith advises employers to ask themselves three questions before writing a job description: “What current and future business needs would this role directly solve? Where else in the organization can this role have an impact? What core competencies will make this individual (and, thereby, your company) successful?”

The sample “Voice of the Customer Lead” description includes sections titled, “Where We See the Role Going,” “The Hats You May Wear,” and “Real World Competencies and Examples.” Items in the last section on competencies include, Collaborative Influencer and Knowledge Seeker, while potential hats listed in the middle section include not only Customer Advocate but also Teacher, Learner, UX Expert, and Data Analyst, among others.

Focusing on talent needed for tech and digital transformations, Smith advocates job descriptions centered on skills rather than tasks, but also notes the importance of building structure around core competencies and responsibilities at the individual level. “It’s better to approach this type of role development as a scaffolding rather than a completed building,” he wrote, concluding that flexible job descriptions should be helping employees to feel empowered to support technology and digital transformation and encouraged to learn and grow beyond normal daily work routines.

Source: “It’s Time to Rethink Job Descriptions for the Digital Era,” Harvard Business Review, Dec. 8, 2021