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Role Clarity: The Importance of Defined Roles in Start-Ups and Small Businesses

Imagine going into work not knowing what to expect, what success looks like, or which tasks you'll perform in a day. Most people would feel stressed and overwhelmed!

While increased freedom in the workplace is trending, defined roles are critical to the success of any organization, start-up, or small business. When everyone knows what they are responsible for, what management expects of them, and how success is measured, they are more likely to be productive, motivated, and accountable.

Why define roles in a start-up or small business?

When you are just starting out, you may be the only team member in your business – so you do it all! But as you begin to hire employees, precisely outlining responsibilities and expectations from day one will set you up for success.

No one will be as dedicated to your business as you are! Having a narrow scope with many roles leads to a team of experts. While some may be able to successfully wear multiple hats, most people need role clarity to thrive.

Asking employees to pitch in and go above and beyond when circumstances arise is absolutely okay, but consistently expecting staff to wear multiple hats can lead to burnout, confusion, and wasted resources.

Benefits of Role Clarity Early on in a Business

1. Improves accountability.

When the pressure is on, and deadlines are looming, it's easy for small tasks to slip under the radar (and for the ‘blame game’ to ensue). Setting clear expectations for every team member improves accountability and ensures jobs don't fall through the cracks.

2. Increases efficiency and reduces mistakes & redundancies.

When everyone is clear on what they are doing, there is less back and forth deciding who will do what. You’ll iron out redundancies, minimize inter-personal conflict and create targeted experts in every role.

3. Empowers and motivates employees.

People want to know how they can measure success within their jobs. Your team will be motivated and engaged when clear expectations and goals are in place, especially if they can see how they contribute to the company's overall success.

4. Strengthens the ability to measure and track success.

Knowing what each employee is responsible for makes it easier to gauge success and monitor the strengths and opportunities of everyone in the organization. This makes it easier to identify gaps and create succession plans, to maximize people power.

5. Makes hiring easier.

Well-defined tasks, responsibilities, and qualifications for each role will make hiring the perfect fit for the job easier. You are also more likely to attract experts and top performers when positions are clear and well-defined.

6. Improves company culture & collaboration.

People work better when they understand their roles and how they fit together as a team. Team members have more respect for one another when they can see each person's vital part in the organization. There are fewer personal struggles and misunderstandings when everyone is clear, leading to increased collaboration.

How to Define Roles

Communicate and articulate from day one.

Clearly define every role in terms of tasks, responsibilities, and expectations. Communicate this from day one in job postings and descriptions. A written document gives employees something to go back to if questions arise.

Be clear about expectations.

Precisely define what each team member will be responsible for.

What to include in job descriptions:

  • A job title

  • Who the position reports to and works with

  • Daily tasks and responsibilities

  • Expected outcomes and success metrics

  • Necessary skills, qualifications, and education

  • An overview of company culture and how the role fits into the big picture

Set measurement criteria.

What does success look like in this role? What are the key performance targets, and what metrics are used? When employees can picture success, they will work in the right direction, focusing on their position's critical elements.

It sounds simple enough, but the act of defining roles, setting expectations, and letting people know how success is measured, goes a long way to empowering and motivating employees. When everyone is clear on responsibilities and expectations, you'll have increased productivity, accountability, and collaboration.


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