Paul Walker
September 11, 2023
min read
People & Culture

Empowering the right people in the right roles

While it may seem a quick, simple action to complete, assigning members of your organization to their role(s) is something that should include a lot of consideration.

In this article, we will discuss some of the things to keep in mind, ways to approach it, and how to use the platform to handle the task.

1 – Do they have/can they learn the skills to do the work?

While the initial thought might be, "They should be good at the work", that approach has pros and cons. Depending on the importance, impact, and difficulty of the work, it may be best for everyone involved to find someone who is already highly skilled at the work.

However, there are many skills that can be taught, allowing anyone willing and eager to learn to excel at a new job. This not only diversifies your workforce, giving more people more skills, but acts as a form of progression, enabling people to branch out into new careers while letting them feel more valued and capable.

For any role, consider whether you need someone who is capable of doing the work right now or if you are willing to take the time and effort to train someone to do it. Both choices are perfectly fine, but having more options available to you gives you more flexibility and confidence in how your workforce is established.

2 – Are they interested in/excited by the work?

Most often, the phrase heard is "We want someone who is passionate about the work". However, this word is often weaponized when an individual isn't over-the-top, outwardly enthusiastic. Other times, they are excited by the work, but may not be excited by other problems happening in the workplace. The important thing is that they enjoy the work (or, if it's new work, they enjoy the idea of doing that work).

Also, remember that everyone is excited by different things. Two people may both love the idea of a new role for very different reasons. One person may like the flexibility of the schedule and variety of the workday, while another person likes the problem-solving necessary. In either case, the positive attitude toward the work will surely help inspire them to do the best they can at the job.

3 – Will they have the support needed to be successful?

Everyone needs different amounts and types of support to succeed in their work.

Some people are very capable of working by themselves and getting work done with no questions asked, but they may require a very clearly defined end-goal to work toward. Others might want constant feedback, both good and bad, to know where they stand, how they are doing, and what they can do to improve.

There are people all over the spectrum and no matter how good they are at the job, if they do not have a support system, they will not succeed.

Ask what they need and ensure it will be provided before giving them the role.

4 – Who should assign roles?

The answer to this varies based on your organizational structure, method of operating, culture, and much more. In the vast majority of cases, role assignment is handled by a managerial position (e.g., manager, lead link, team lead, etc.).

This is a single person who makes the major decisions for the team and who will be a part of the team. Whether or not this works depends largely on the individual.

Are they fair?

Do they consider all the options?

Do they accept criticism on their decisions?

It is certainly the simplest option and most closely resembles the way most of us are used to working, but it also typically further from the "Teal" concept you may be aspiring for, as it does appoint one person as the one who ultimately decides what the team looks like.

Other common way to handle role assignment is the democratic option - where everyone on the team votes for who they want to fill the role. Even this option has different ways of doing it, such as whether it must be a unanimous decision or if the majority of votes wins.

Handling role assignments via a vote has the immediate benefit of giving everyone on the team a voice, allowing them to have a say in who they work with and who they believe will help the team move forward.

On the other hand, this can also lead to concerns of popularity contests or certain people on the team being uncomfortable opposing the desires of the majority.

These potential issues should be looked at as opportunities to grow the soft skills of the team, from communication to conflict resolution. In the end, it will make the entire team stronger and make for more insightful, though-out votes regarding future team members.

If those two most common methods of role assignment don't sound right for you, know that it's limited only by what you can imagine. Some companies hire for culture first and skills second.

Some will do extensive interviews for weeks or months so they get to see everything about a person prior to giving them the job. Other companies have someone intern in every department, to see which skills they are best at and which teams they get along with best, then departments will bid on who wants that person to work for them full-time.

Ultimately, what you decide should be what makes the most sense for your organization - especially how you operate day-to-day and what your core values support. Also remember that you can try it one way and switch to another method if it doesn't work. Or, have every team try one method for a few months and get feedback to see which seems to be working best.

5 – How many roles is the right amount?

Most company structures have one person doing one full-time job. However, the idea of "roles" has become more popular in recent years. With roles, a single individual could have any number of roles, whether all doing a similar type of work or even in completely different departments. Thus, it is often questioned how many roles is too many.

The answer to that will depend entirely on each unique individual. Someone should be able to efficiently meet the expectations of every role they have in a reasonable amount of time for a full-time job (~40 hours a week, for example) without getting burnt out or being overwhelmed. If that can't be done, they likely have too many roles or there is too much being expected of each individual role.

For this reason, it varies by person and situation. It's possible that having ten roles is fine for someone most of the time, but something unexpected happens and two or three of those roles now require far more work. In this case, that person may need to temporarily quit some of their roles to keep up with the work, or additional help needs to be hired.

How to handle role assignment in Holaspirit

For instructions on how to assign members to roles, please check out this article. Furthermore, Holaspirit focuses on flexibility so that our system can benefit you no matter how your organization opts to handle role assignment. For this reason, you can change your organization's role assignment settings to align with however you choose to operate.

Further Reading

Hire for Organizational Culture Fit First, Skills Second: 5 Steps to Achieve That

An article with a few helpful steps on how to hire for culture first and skills second

Reinventing Organizations Wiki: Role Definition and Allocation

A rundown of "roles" in Teal organizations, different ways of assigning them, and concrete examples.

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