Implement This Today: Why Every Company Needs Role Guides

Written in collaboration with Elisha Gray, HR Advisor and Coach

Image via 99U

The HR world is full of templates, documentation, and rubrics for different elements of the employee lifecycle. There are job descriptions, onboarding plans, performance management documents, and off-boarding systems. But what underpins them all? Right now, each document is created individually, and sometimes by different people or departments. That nets out to an inconsistent employee experience and inconsistent deliverables for a company.

Instead of ditching all those documents, create a foundation that tracks across all of them. At Bloom, we call this foundation a Role Guide. This document, created before the job description is even written, helps leaders visualize what the role needs to accomplish and guides hiring, performance management, and growth within the organization.

In this article, we’ve outlined how to build the Role Guide as a foundation for your employee experience and expectation setting. If you’re leading a growing team or company, keep reading.

Image via 99U

Understanding Role Guides

A Role Guide is an internal document that covers every key expectation for a specific role:

  • Purpose: The purpose of the role and where it fits in the organization.
  • Overview: A glimpse into the day-to-day of this role, including potential regular tasks.
  • Personality: A description of the type of person most likely to succeed in the role.
  • Responsibilities: Overarching responsibilities of the role.
  • Expectations: Performance triggers that signal increase — or decrease — leadership confidence in someone’s performance in the role.
  • Qualifications: Any necessary qualifications for the person in the role.
  • Compensation: Overview of compensation structure.

It’s critical to note that, as the name suggests, this is not an employee plan, but for a specific role. So if you have multiple people in the same role (for example, Business Development Representatives or Customer Support Specialists), each person would use the same Role Guide.

Further, Role Guides should be fleshed out the moment that a skill gap is identified — before you bring candidates in. If you wait until the interview stage to create it, you risk a bias based on candidates you liked, whether or not they can actually deliver on what the business needs.

Where a Role Guide fits into the business

Think of the Role Guide as a reference point for every stage in the employee lifecycle.

In specific, the Role Guide informs:

  • Job descriptions for talent attraction.
  • Interview guides and rubrics for the hiring process.
  • Onboarding and 30 / 60 / 90 day performance plans for new employees.
  • 1-on-1 meetings and performance check-ins with managers.
  • Larger performance reviews, salary negotiations, and promotion conversations.
  • Making the case to let someone go or having a mutual parting of the ways during the off-boarding process.

Creating Role Guides retroactively

This type of document is ideally created before the hire is made, but can also be created retroactively for existing teams.

Benefits of retroactive Role Guide creation

The biggest benefit is that a Role Guide removes a lot of discomfort and awkwardness from performance management conversations. Leaning on the Role Guide to prompt performance conversations will help employees and managers alike tie all work done to business outcomes.

The other benefits include:

  • More clarity for employees about performance expectations.
  • More opportunity for employees to innovate since outcome expectations are set.
  • The role will be easier to hire for in the future because you’ll know what is expected.

Issues to address with retroactive Role Guide creation

A potential risk with creating Role Guides retroactively is two-fold: you could either bias the Role Guide to the person in the role or realize the person you have is not a good fit for what the role actually needs. If the former happens, go back to the drawing board to objectively check if the Role Guide is accurate (you may want outside help for this). If the latter case happens, remember your responsibility is to have an honest conversation with that employee. Should the situation end up requiring off-boarding, be generous and kind about it — this is not the employee’s fault.

Other issues to pay attention to:

  • Concerns about employees politicking to get “favourable” Role Guides attributed to their role.
  • Role Guides have to apply to every role — up to and including the CEO.
  • There’s a chance that a Role Guide might conflict with existing documents, rubrics, and templates your company uses. Be aware of this and augment those documents to ensure continuity and consistency.

The key to Role Guides: flexibility and collaboration

When designing your Role Guides, make sure that managers understand it’s intended to be a living document. If a stellar candidate doesn’t 100% match the Role Guide, it doesn’t mean they won’t be successful at your company. Or if the role evolves with the person you hire, don’t hold them back by expecting full adherence to the guide — you have to leave room for creativity and innovation. Ultimately, this guide provides a kickstart, cheat sheet, and foundation for manager-employee collaboration, but not a rule cast in stone.

If you’re having trouble with Role Guides in your organization, you aren’t alone. They can be complicated documents. You may want to hire outside professionals to help you get the baselines done quickly plus get some coaching on continuing the work yourself.

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