Blog: ADAPT Concepts

How to navigate your organisation’s ship

In our last blog post, we explored the idea that if you don’t know where you are going, how will you get to where you want to go? If you don’t have a clear vision, purpose and set of values, how will you navigate to the right place?

In our latest blog, we explore HOW you navigate there using effective stewardship.

In our life, we all work and play on many teams. At work, in our sports clubs, even our family is a team. Every new member that joins those teams increases the number of relationships, which increases the complexity of communication and collaboration. This puts great emphasis on enabling effective stewardship.

So, what is stewardship?

“The careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”
–    The dictionary

Stewardship as a term used in the 15th century invokes images of a ship’s crew skilfully navigating a schooner through a storm around the Cape of Good Hope.

This navigation through an unpredictable environment is analogous to how a successful modern organisation will sense and adapt to navigate the business world.

Teams that practice effective stewardship will be transparent on how they:

  1. Manage their work
  2. Hold productive meetings

How do you manage your teamwork?

Writing lists in a notepad? Sticky labels on your computer? In your head? Using email?

These are all common answers to the question of how people manage their everyday tasks, and the tasks of the team.

What do they all have in common? They are not transparent to the team.

How each team manages its work may be highly variable with many factors at play, but the critical thing for effective stewardship is that everyone in the team needs to have visibility of tasks and who is accountable for what.

So, what is our sense and adapt approach to stewardship? The answer – Kanban.

Jim Benson, the creator of Personal Kanban deftly describes the principles of Kanban in this short, six-minute video.

In summary, Kanban provides a way to tackle the team challenges we outlined above with its simple but effective principles of:

  • Visualising work
  • Limiting work in progress
  • Promoting accountability

The ADAPT solution includes a digital Kanban board. An effective team will collaborate around a Kanban board, regularly meeting to discuss the team’s work.

But are your meetings productive? Inspiring?

Safe to say most people would answer no!

Many can resonate with Peter Drucker’s quote. Meetings get a bad rap but are they a lost cause?

Veteran leadership coach, Patrick Lencioni, comes to the defence of the meeting. He believes meetings can be productive, even energising, if leaders ensure that meetings have:

  • Drama, by nurturing the natural and healthy level of conflict that should exist.
  • Context and purpose set correctly. This may even lead to more and different types of meetings, but that is not a bad thing to ensure that issues and proposals get the correct air time, cadence and setting.
  • A need for commitment on the part of the leader. Simply put, meetings are what leaders do, and they need to commit and prepare the team to ensure they are meaningful, engaging and relevant. A leader who doesn’t want to do meetings is like a surgeon who doesn’t like operations.

By effectively managing your teamwork and ensuring your meetings are productive, you significantly increase your chances of stewarding your organisation to where you want it to go!

In the ADAPT Team Model, effective stewardship is the third of six attributes that we explore to build a capable team. We work with varying types of teams to implement a learning and development program to help achieve the best outcomes possible.

We invite your teams to complete our free ADAPT Team Assessment to gauge where your team is currently at, and how we can help your team be as excellent as they can be!

Blog: ADAPT Concepts

How your Team’s Vision, Purpose and Values Drive Alignment

The alignment of your team purpose, vision and values is the emotional glue that binds a team culture and sense of identity. It helps answer the questions:

  • Why do we exist as a team?
  • Where are we going in the future?
  • How do we agree to behave?

That is why it is so vital for leaders to spend time with their teams getting alignment around these questions and set the team up with the foundations to be as healthy and effective as they can be.


We love this quote from Lewis Caroll, ‘If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there’.

How do you get ‘there’ when you don’t know, or even care, where ‘there’ is? You can never arrive anywhere because you don’t have a destination. Without direction or a goal, how do you pick a path or plot a course to get there? Confused?

Knowing where ‘there’ is, is not only important for individuals. If you apply this analogy to a team environment, without a clear sense of direction, how do you make informed decisions, reach goals and create meaning for your team?

A team vision is a shared picture of the team’s desired future state. It is something that the team can rally behind and work toward. The most powerful visions are the ones that are crafted from the ideas that come from the team. When team members are involved in crafting the vision, they more easily agree on the critical things that they need to work on to achieve it.

An excellent team vision should inspire team members, not just engage them.


A team purpose expresses the team’s reason for existence. It should connect to the overall purpose of the organisation and give all team members clarity and focus on why they do the work they do. Without that, how can you expect employees to stay motivated?

Teams often lose their sense of purpose when the team leader departs or the work of the team changes. While the output of the team is important, so is the reason for its existence and the team leader needs to inspire team members by asking ‘does this decision, does this action, talk to our team purpose?’

While many organisations and teams have a purpose, it’s often a ‘bold statement’, which doesn’t connect with the team. The art of crafting a purpose statement which is motivating and can easily be recalled and referenced is key to its success.


Every team member has their personal values and ideas on how a team should behave. Being explicit on your team’s shared values and related behaviour gets everyone on the same page. If all team members agree on the non-negotiable truths of team behaviour the team will communicate more effectively, improve collaboration, and be in a better position to navigate through conflict.

Team purpose, vision and values are not a set and forget. A poster on the lunchroom wall. Some words on the back of a business card. They guide decision making and drive the culture and focus of the team. They should have meaning around them and buy-in from all team members. Encourage them to be challenged and reference them every day.

In the ADAPT Team Model, alignment of Purpose, Vision and Values is the second of six attributes of an effective team that we explore. We work with varying types of teams to implement a learning and development program to help achieve the best outcomes possible.

We invite your teams to complete our free ADAPT Team Assessment to gauge where your team is currently at, and how we can help your team be as excellent as they can be!

Blog: ADAPT Concepts

Why trust and psychological safety is so important

It is safe to say the majority of us can relate to working in an unproductive team. One that met regularly but didn’t achieve anything. One that had no alignment of purpose, vision and values.

Unfortunately, we can probably all relate to one where we didn’t feel ‘safe’. Where we couldn’t be authentic and true without the fear of negative consequences. Where we were punished for our mistakes, rather than being encouraged to learn and innovate from them.

Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. People can admit their mistakes, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help when it’s needed.

Research shows that when there is trust and team members feel safe, innovation improves, team members learn quickly from their own and each other’s mistakes, problems are overcome more rapidly, and employees are more engaged.

Google spent two years, researching 180 multi-disciplinary teams, of varying degrees of productivity, across many areas of the business, and the data they collected concluded that psychological safety was the number one attribute of team effectiveness.

Building trust and psychological safety in the team is an essential first step for any team to be healthy and achieve great things. But it is not a set and forget exercise. It is ongoing work that requires commitment and focus. It takes time and preparedness of all parties to be vulnerable. Building trust in a team requires the team leader to actively build a culture that allows people to feel safe and bring their whole self to work.

So how do we enable trust and psychological safety in our teams?

First, everyone in the team needs to be reliable. Do you do what you say you are going to do? Can your colleagues trust that if you say you are going to do something you will do it?

Second, you need to be accepting. Do you acknowledge the ideas and opinions of those who are different from you? People want to be accepted for who they are; not judged, criticised or made to feel inferior.

Third, you need to be open. This is about being ‘real’ and vulnerable. Telling it how it is, sharing information and being prepared for people to see who you really are. People who are open are able to give and receive feedback freely.

Lastly, the team needs to be congruent. It needs consistency between the goals, values and attitudes stated and the actual behaviours observed. People need to trust that you are going to behave with integrity.

In the ADAPT Team Model, Trust and Psychological Safety is the first of six attributes of an effective team that we explore. We work with varying types of teams to implement a learning and development program, supported and enabled by our technology, to help achieve the best outcomes possible.

We invite your teams to complete our free ADAPT Team Assessment to gauge where your team is currently at, and how we could help you to improve.

Blog: ADAPT Concepts

Who champions the culture in your organisation?

You can manage your finances, your calendar and even your time, but can you actually ‘manage’ people? People have emotion, intelligence, initiative, motivation and passion. These are the very things that make businesses successful, so why do we think that people should be managed like finite resources? What’s the alternative?  Well, what about leadership? People can be lead, and many people are inspired by leaders who can articulate a clear purpose that reflects their values, concerns and philosophies.

One of the biggest problems with corporate culture today is a view by employees that they are simply assets for use by the organisation. Engagement surveys report a startling lack of engagement within organisations.

Statistic on culture and employee engagement

In the ADAPT method, Cultural Leaders are the trusted ‘champions’ within the company who have been mentored and entrusted with the company’s culture. They uphold the culture and values of the organisation with the intent of bringing out the best in others by being role models.

The Role of a Cultural Leader

Cultural Leaders form a dedicated leadership group who act as advocates for both the employee and the organisation. It deliberately departs from contemporary management styles that promote management is exclusively about the business.

Employees are matched to a Cultural Leader. These leaders hold quarterly face-to-face “catch-ups” with employees which last between 30 and 90 minutes. Employees can also request a catch-up if they need to.

An employee’s Cultural Leader should not be their team leader. They are not assigning tasks, setting objectives or assessing performance levels. Their role is to discuss the concerns, issues, ideas and aspirations of employees in a way that serves both the individual and the collective goals of the organisation.

Cultural Leaders are required to bring awareness and compassion to the role. This does not mean that Cultural Leaders avoid difficult conversations or avoid challenging an employee about their motivations, behaviours or even their “fit” within the organisation. As an advocate for both the employee and the organisation, the Cultural Leaders role is about understanding the context and the interplay between the employee’s career, their skills, their life outside work as well as the collective goals of the business.

It Takes Conscious Effort to Build Trust

A lot of research has been published in recent years about the intended (or unintended) consequences of toxic cultural environments caused by the negative effects of fear in the workplace.

Genuine leadership creates a safe place for employees to be honest and share their concerns while helping them feel empowered to take risks without fear.

These types of leaders share similar traits:

  • They are prepared to be vulnerable
  • They routinely suppress their self-interest to focus on collective outcomes
  • The embrace accountability by addressing difficult issues
  • They seek alignment and commitment from others by striving for clarity and closure
  • They exhibit curiosity rather than defensive behaviour when engaging in debate about ideas, issues and problems

Organisations that seek to promote leaders from within their ranks have a good chance of being able to coach and mentor prospective Cultural Leaders by identifying those employees who consistently demonstrate these traits. When deciding on your Cultural Leaders, look for people who genuinely care about others while paying attention to results. These are employees who are aware, have a presence, and they have compassion needed to take on this role.

As trust is built between Cultural Leaders and their cohort, and between employees and the organisation, you will find that more and more employees are willing to share information without the requirement of ‘confidentiality’. It’s one of the changes that demonstrate that the leaders are creating an environment of trust.

Cultural Metrics

When it comes to insights into your organisation, its culture and people, nothing beats real data. There is no point trying to measure cultural attributes if the information has no useful purpose or any practical way to analyse it.

Some of the most useful data comes from being able to analyse trends over time for an employee and being able to compare the changes. This necessitates a system designed for this purpose and allows for analysis and detailed investigation of individual and collective data sets.

Cultural metrics can include:

  • Engagement ratings with your role, team or organisation
  • Connection ratings with your peers
  • Satisfaction ratings with your career path
  • Adequacy of peer recognition, mentorship and training options
  • Adequacy of employee remuneration & benefits
  • Connection to the corporate purpose

Cultural Leadership Tools

The ADAPT platform has three measurement tools which our customers can use.

  • The Career Valuation Tool (or CVT) captures an employee’s intrinsic motivation aspects, career and role related information
  • The Cultural Index, (or CI), captures the overall satisfaction or happiness level of their employment
  • Peer Catch-Up captures the quality of peer relationships measured on an honest bi-directional judgement of Engagement, Connection and Contribution.

All three tools serve to capture digital, date related information that can be stored for further contextual and trend based analysis.

If you would like to know more, get in touch.


Launch of embedADAPT’s refreshed interface!

In April 2014 we launched the first version of our cloud-based technology, embedADAPT.

Since the initial release, we have regularly added new features and made improvements based on the feedback from you guys – our customers.

On the 25th July, we will be launching our biggest update yet, a refreshed version of our user interface.

So, what does that mean?

When you log on you’ll see a much cleaner, consistent design and navigation aligned to the ADAPT method.

The biggest of these change is the addition of three tabs on a side navigation bar which gives you a Personal (I), Teams (WE) and Organisation (IT) view. These tabs now all include a dashboard.

The personal tab displays a dashboard with your personal information including your tasks, peer catch ups and career valuation score.

The team tab shows you all the teams you are a member of and allows you to navigate to each team dashboard to access team guidance, tasks and network health.

The organisation tab displays a dashboard with organisational information including guidance around purpose and values, and analysis of network health, career valuations and cultural index. You can also navigate to pages for each Value Stream and Succession within the organisation.

We’ve also added an ADAPT method tab where you can access all resources related to the ADAPT method including the ADAPT capabilities.



When you first log in, you will have access to a tour which will go through each element in embedADAPT.

We have also implemented a chat feature, so if you have any questions, you can send a support request through this window.

At ADAPT we are committed to building long-term relationships with our customers by providing a great product and proactive, personal and helpful support that exceeds expectations.

Please contact our support team for assistance or if you have any ideas on how we could improve.

Blog: ADAPT Concepts

Recruiting for values and cultural fit

The environment businesses operate in today has never been more dynamic. There is a growing societal demand for businesses to be more conscious and to reflect more sustainable attitudes.

Why then, do many recruiting ads and agencies emphasise qualifications and experience, when businesses are interested in a candidate’s capability and their ‘cultural fit’ with the organisation?  We believe that this is because it takes more time and conscious effort to determine these attributes, and that is at odds with the world that insists solutions must be fast and simple.

Recruiting is one of the most important tasks any organisation routinely engages in.  I doubt many employers would argue that who a business invites into their organisation has a massive impact on their culture and productivity.

When we say ‘values and culture’, we mean those values and behaviours that best describe how a company interacts with their stakeholders, both internal (employees and partners) and external (customers, suppliers and the community in which it operates). A company’s culture is often implied and tends to evolve over time.

The problem with a focus on recruiting for qualifications and experience is that this approach is transactional.  It might be efficient, but there are fundamental problems with the effectiveness of this strategy. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Almost all businesses can attest to having recruited experienced and ‘suitably’ qualified individuals, only to have them exit a short time later because they didn’t fit the company culture.

A transactional recruiting approach assumes that business is a static entity with narrowly defined requirements. The logic seems to be that by simply filling the vacant position, the business needs will be solved.  The fact is, all businesses are comprised of human beings, and it is these human characteristics – our capacity for connection, ingenuity, passion, diligence and purpose – that creates a successful business.

What if there is an alternative? Recruiting the way professional sporting teams do, adopting a more systematic approach. Many highly successful sporting teams start by accepting that the overall performance of the team depends on how all the parts fit; not how the parts perform separately.  The focus is on an individual’s potential to grow, perform and contribute to your teams.

Because team and cultural behaviours are so important in today’s workplace, matching candidates that align with your company’s values and purpose is key. It demands the business consider sustainability and focus on the recruit who is likely to be a better fit for your organisation now, and in the future.

Recruiting for values and cultural fit also includes important reciprocal aspects. As much as the candidate is expected to sell themselves to an organisation, the organisation is also selling themselves to the candidate.  In a globally competitive marketplace, where motivated employees are looking for a career, they want to know that your organisation can deliver by matching their aspirations with your own.

So, what’s the catch? Actually, there isn’t one.  However, this approach does require a good deal more conscious thought, planning and effort.

How do businesses select candidates based on cultural fit?

Before assessing a candidate, it’s a good idea to invest the time to create a detailed task map of your recruitment process, as it:

  • Enables better estimates of the time and resources
  • Allows you to communicate the process to all those involved, including the candidates
  • Ensures role clarity and accountability
  • Ensures commitment by decision makers
  • Improves your ability to treat candidates with fairness, respect and professionalism

Recruiting for values and cultural fit involves both process and technique. In terms of process, this is divided into several stages. As a minimum we suggest that the candidates are interviewed separately for their capability (competence and capacity) as well as their cultural fit factors (values, philosophy and alignment).  If the role is crucial for the business, we also suggest employers consider conducting an additional role-play scenario, so that the candidate is assessed in a simulated team environment.

It should be emphasised that capability is subordinate to cultural fit.  It’s not that capability isn’t important. Determining a candidate’s capability is a fundamental step in the screening process, but the overall hiring decision should be based on the capable candidate who is assessed as having the best alignment with your company’s culture.

What happens in situations where candidates successfully ‘game’ the interview process?  It is possible for a candidate to give a convincing ‘performance’ during the interview stages, but it is much less likely that they will be able to sustain a performance in the long term. A mutual assessment period is a useful discretionary tool. Employers should only be prepared to offer permanent employment if they are convinced that the candidate is a good fit for their organisation. Employees also have the time to decide if the organisation is a good fit for them.

What factors should be evaluated when assessing cultural fit?

Determining cultural fit factors is about technique. Most organisations can describe the values and behaviours which are important to them and that they rate highly.  This is less dependent on role specifics and more on a candidate’s alignment with your organisations purpose and philosophies. Explicitly stating these will help guide the recruiting process and assist you to formulate useful interview questions and selection criteria.

Our Tips

  • Make use of your organisation’s purpose and guiding philosophy
    • Help the candidates understand why you do what you do
    • Promote your point of difference
  • Make use of your values
    • State what the values mean to your organisation
    • Give examples of how you use them in your business
    • Use them as a reference for interview questions
    • Create interest and curiosity around your values
    • Ensure your values aren’t confused with business objectives
  • Use a Career Valuation Tool to establish what’s critically important to the candidate and what their intrinsic motivations are.

If you would like to know more about how we can assist your business in finding well aligned candidates using our method and unique measurement tools, then please get in touch.


ADAPT by Design is moving!

We are excited to announce that ADAPT by Design is moving to a new home in Subiaco.

Please update your records with our new address effective from the 15th June 2017.

4/448 Roberts Road
Subiaco WA 6008
Google Map

PO Box 525
Subiaco WA 6904

Our new office phone number will take a little longer to sort out, so in the meantime, please call us on our mobiles, or send us an email.

There is plenty of two-hour parking behind the office on Metters Lane, as well as a Wilson parking space on Roberts Road between our office and the Subiaco train station. If you catch the train to Subiaco, the walk is less than five minutes.

We look forward to seeing you in our new space!

Case Studies

Changing commuting habits for good

acQuire believe they have a social responsibility to improve the lives and health of their employees and the health of the planet.

Because of this, acQuire offers all employees a daily commuter allowance for each day they don’t drive to work. Popular ways of getting to work include running, walking, cycling, utilising public transport, or carpooling.

acQuire uses the ADAPT by Design method to engage and align their people. ADAPT helps businesses to grow in a way that is both sustainable and faithful to their purpose and values. They help embed lasting change using a data-driven, step-by-step approach.

ADAPT believes that all areas of a business are interdependent and have identified eight areas of focus called Successions. These include Leadership, People, Culture, Stakeholders, Architecture, Product, Financial Security and Ownership.

The commuter allowance is an initiative under the Succession of People. The Succession of People aims to create teams of people who are highly capable, energetic and values aligned. It provides opportunities to instil happiness in the workplace and culture.

Originally brought in to solve the challenges around limited parking bays, the commuter allowance has resulted in numerous benefits to acQuire. Employees enjoy healthier commuting habits and feel engaged in the community and with the environment. Staff save money, are more active, healthy and less stressed, as well as doing their bit to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution and harmful carbon emissions.

It is a trust-based system where employees record how they travel to work each day using a calendar on the company intranet. Employees receive $7 per day if they don’t drive to the office. Each month, the number of days are added up and this amount is added to the employee’s monthly salary.

Some employees opt to donate their monthly commuter allowance to charities supported by acQuire.

Employees share their stories

acQuire’s dedicated staff see the commuter allowance as a differentiator that sets the company apart, making them proud to work at acQuire and think about the greater impacts of their commuting choices. The allowance is an important element of the workplace.

Sebastien Merlet, a geoscientific data analyst at acQuire, said the option of the commuter allowance made the company more attractive as an employer.

“I decided to join acQuire for various reasons – the company’s great culture being one of them. The commuter allowance was an example I gave to my friends and family as proof of the good culture.”

“As soon as I started to look for an apartment in Perth after joining the company, I took the commuter allowance into account by looking at how close public transport was: I was very enthusiastic about it.”

Sebastien said the allowance still has a positive effect on the way he feels and on the time it takes to get to work and back.

“Filling out the commuter allowance app every month makes me feel good. Beyond the financial incentive, there’s always this hint of pleasure to see the green days on the commuter calendar and the beneficial contribution to the environment. Almost five years later, I still feel good about filling out the calendar.”

“My commute consists of going from home to the train station, taking the train for about 20 minutes, then going from the train station to acQuire’s office in Applecross.”

“I tried various ways to make the trip as quick as possible and ended up choosing a kick scooter to go from home to the train station, and from the train station to the office. By doing this, I get to work in about 35 minutes, where using my car can take 45 minutes to one hour in the morning traffic.”

Marianne Broadgate, a researcher at acQuire, spends more time with her daughter because of the commuter allowance.

“I feel the company actively caring and wanting me to drive less, is more powerful than the actual payment. I find it’s too easy to take the car here in Australia and so the commuter allowance does tilt me over to cycle on days when I may otherwise just take the car. It means I have set my life up to cycle rather than drive. Not only does that mean that I cycle, but so does my daughter as I drop her off at school on the way.”

Marianne appreciates the incentive and sees it as a tipping factor to make her behaviour more environmentally friendly and community focused.

“It changes mindsets and behaviours fundamental to engendering systematic and societal changes that are hugely beneficial to people, community and the environment. It also helps employees feel nurtured by their company which breeds engagement and loyalty.”

Meesha Stacker, a marketing executive at acQuire, also saw the allowance as an attractor in terms of choosing a new employer.

“When I applied for a position at acQuire, the commuter allowance was an attractive initiative that stood out at the company (one of many). Even though it’s a nominal daily amount, it adds up throughout the year as extra money and you feel good about it.”

Meesha said the effect doesn’t wear off and it still influences her daily commuting decisions.

“After nearly four years with the company I do still travel to work more by car, however when I can, I will take public transport or ride my bike. Having the commuter allowance there certainly makes me think about and try to use alternative transport means more than if the initiative wasn’t in place.”

acQuire’s commuter allowance is not just available to employees based in the Australian offices. It is a global company initiative. acQuire has seven offices around the globe and all employees can access the allowance. It reflects acQuire’s approach to sustaining a one company model.

About acQuire

acQuire Technology Solutions is an employee-owned company originating in Perth, Western Australia.

In 1996, acQuire launched Geoscientific Information Management (GIM) software solutions for the natural resources industries, focusing on exploration, resource development and mining assets.

Due to an ongoing commitment to excellence, acQuire reinvests 20-25% of their annual revenue into research and development. The company currently employs over 100 staff working in seven offices around the globe, with support centres operating in each major time zone. More than 450 sites benefit from acQuire GIM solutions.

Two Western Australian Industry and Export Awards in Digital Technologies and the C.Y. O’Connor Award for Excellence in Engineering and Technology were awarded to acQuire in 2016 for global technology and engineering innovation.

Release Notes

Enhancing your team effectiveness

Our cloud-based technology enables everyone in your organisation to come on the ADAPT journey and provides the framework and tools to embed lasting change. This release focuses on improving the effectiveness of teams.

Team Dashboard

You can now establish teams within your organisation. Each team has its own dashboard. The dashboard is accessible from the value streams or successions that they are accountable for. The dashboard gives you an overview of who is in the team, its purpose and values, the quality of relationships in the team and the current work being done.

Team Guidance

A shared purpose and values align the focus and direction of the team and answer the question of WHY this team exists. You can now capture these for each team, building on the purpose and values of the organisation.

Team Stewardship

Managing team work effectively increases accountability and collaboration.

Each team has its own Kanban board (or multiple if you wish), and works similarly to the previous meeting groups, with an improved layout and filtering capabilities.

Team Meetings

Teams may now elect whether or not to utilise the meetings functionality, with the ability to capture notes and decisions within each meeting.

If enabled, the dashboard will give you quick access to the next meeting and the minutes from the previous meeting.

Speed Catch Up

Team members can use the speed catch up functionality to improve their ability to communicate their level of engagement and give and receive feedback on contributions.

This helps enhance working relationships in the team and ensure everyone is working towards the shared purpose.

Network Health

Our new interactive analysis tool allows you to interrogate the quality of relationships in your network based on speed catch up data.

This is available at the team level, as well as on your personal speed catch up dashboard. Total Systems Leaders can also utilise this at an organisational level.

We hope you enjoy the new team functionality in the ADAPT platform.
If you have any questions or concerns, please give us a call, or email Support on

Blog: ADAPT Concepts

Why role clarity is key in any organisation

Employee retention is a persistent issue for all businesses, and according to the results of the latest Pulse Survey of the Australian Human Resources Institute the average level of staff turnover was around 16%.

For many, this rate is considered too high, with more than two-thirds of the respondents believing that turnover of 10% or less would be ideal. The survey also indicated that almost 60% believed turnover in their workplace had a negative impact on workplace productivity.

What is interesting, is that more than half of this turnover came from younger workers (35 years of age or less) and was highest among those occupying entry level, graduate or junior roles. Although you might reasonably expect younger employees to exhibit higher turnover, the results from the AHRI survey show that younger employees are leaving their employers at a rate that is at least 2.5 times greater, compared to all other positions and ages.

These results indicate that there is a lot of unproductive recruiting, especially among entry-level jobs. If that is the case, what can employers do to reduce turnover? One solution is greater role clarity.

In an article published in 2012 by the Harvard Business Review, author Tammy Erikson argues that without clear role descriptions employees are more likely to waste their energies negotiating their roles within their teams rather than focusing on their productive tasks. To paraphrase the article, without role clarity, employees often get involved in unnecessary politics and turf wars.

More importantly, the research also suggested that collaboration improved when roles were clearly defined and well understood. The reasoning behind this conclusion was the finding that team behaviours improved when employees felt that their roles had clear boundaries, and that allowed them to do a significant portion of their work independently.

Renewed focus on role clarity

In an increasingly dynamic and connected global economy, new businesses are constantly being created and existing businesses are re-inventing themselves. In response, jobs and job roles have been changing at a frenetic pace. Employers are expected to meet and embrace these changes, but often without any consideration of what the new role expectations are for employees.

Many businesses also assume that their employees understand how their roles directly affect the success of the company. What then, is the likely outcome if those roles are not well defined (or at all) and the responsibilities and accountabilities are unclear?

The benefits of role descriptions

The advantages of adopting a systematic way to create and sustain role descriptions go well beyond simply reducing role confusion and improving collaboration.

Specific role descriptions can be very useful when used in the following ways:

Recruiting and attracting talent
  • Ensures that the position is well defined and understood, first by the business and then by the potential recruit.
  • Assists the recruiting process by helping to frame interview questions and conversations with role candidates.
  • Explains how the recruit can contribute to the organisation and vice versa.
  • Demonstrates that the business is structured and well organised.
Handovers, induction & training
  • Promotes alignment with, and provides context for the company’s culture, values and purpose.
  • Provides a valuable reference for handovers and assists an incumbent to introduce the new role recipient to the breadth and depth of all their role tasks.
  • Introduces development and training required for performing the role tasks.
  • Creates objectives to assess the performance of new recruits within a probationary period.
  • Provides clear role responsibility and accountability.
  • Reduces confusion by eliminating unintentional job overlap.
  • Defines how the role fits within the business and how it intersects with other roles, workflows and teams.
  • Explains how the employee can help the business execute their product or service offering.
  • Improves collaborative behaviours by providing a secure framework for employees to work independently and creatively.
Performance management
  • Defines what the expected performance in the role should look like.
  • Establishes an objective basis for measuring and managing performance.
  • Provides a useful reference for counselling employee disputes and discipline issues.
Innovation and knowledge management
  • Provides a contextual framework that will assist employees seeking guidance.
  • Facilitates the sharing of stories about why a company does the things it does, in the way that they do them.
  • Promotes the capture of ideas on how to improve current processes so they are more effective in the future.
Career development
  • Supports the idea that the role is part of a career, rather than a simple placeholder for a job.
  • Provides a factual basis for managing career progression and succession planning.
  • Helps establish the networks available to the employee for advice and mentoring.

Creating & sustaining role descriptions

How a business creates, manages and maintains their role descriptions is a significant issue. When they exist, most role descriptions are stored as static documents, either in hard copy or Word documents. When the role and role tasks change, and they often do, how then does a business capture these changes to reflect the new role descriptions without the time and effort spent in locating and updating these documents?

The answer to this problem lies with technology and being able to link role descriptions to task maps instead of linking them to individuals. By consciously separating “roles from souls”, a business can use task maps to show where capabilities are lacking or duplicated for employees, for teams and for the organisation.

The benefit of using task maps for this purpose is that they also provide a visual representation of your business processes and workflows. Given that business processes tend to change more often than employees, it makes logical sense to innovate around workflow rather than attempt to react to every change that impacts an employee’s role.

ADAPT by Design has created a cloud-based task mapping system that links directly to a role description. Whenever any task map is updated, all the role descriptions associated with those tasks are updated dynamically. An employee can have multiple roles, which will show all their tasks on their personal profile giving them clarity of their position within the company.

If you would like to know how to create and dynamically sustain effective role descriptions matched to your business requirements, please get in touch.

  1. Australian Human Resources Institute, October 2015; AHRI Pulse Survey – Turnover and Retention (19 pages).
  2. Harvard Business Review, April 5, 2012; The Biggest Mistake You (Probably) Make with Teams, by Tammy Erikson.