8th October 2020

Forget the tired old job spec, give your staff a PURPOSE

5th February, 2019

Gary Rayneau

How many of us are guilty of handing a new recruit or a newly promoted member of staff the same cut and paste job spec that their predecessor had? This spec is meant to detail the remit, the KPIs and the process that allows an individual to successfully operate in the role.   Problem is, job specs are so often more akin to an instruction manual rather than a document to inspire and provide genuine purpose. Instruction manuals are a synonym for boring at the best of times. People are not robots and you can’t simply hand the same set of instructions to different people and expect results.

Square peg, round hole

The issue I have with job specs is that they can be restrictive and regimented. Too often there is little room for adaptability and customisation based upon the needs, wants and strengths of the individual. To be ‘successful’ the individual is required to adapt and change to meet the demands of the job spec. Whilst some people may be able to do this, for others the level of stress this can cause is paralysing and terminal to their success in the role. Further pressures on the individual’s mental health are compounded by micro-management, strict-adherence to role parameters and unchecked expectations.

The Alternative

The importance of having a purpose to achieve good mental health is well versed as a holistic imperative and this is just as applicable in the workplace. Having a clearly defined purpose that takes into account the needs of the role and also the needs of the individual beats a predefined job spec every time.

When creating a purpose, ensure that three elements of human resource management are central.

  1. Job Design

Times change and we all know that the best businesses need to adapt. Before an individual starts a new role question the detail and its genuine relevance. Is the workload too much or too little?  How will this role change over the next year? Does this role have the adequate support around it? Has this role been communicated through the business? Is the work fulfilling enough?  Etc etc. Get the basic design of the job correct before putting anyone in a position where they are being set up to fail from the get go.

  1. Job Control

When we employ someone we don’t just employ the person you see from 9-5, we employ the whole person - their strengths, their motivators and their requirements. We can’t just aspire for our employees to achieve work-life balance, we need to give them the tools and the support to achieve it.  Empower them to have control over their job and the journey to best meet the objectives required.   Give your staff clear objectives and KPIs in order to avoid micromanagement and support them to be successful in a way that suits them and the business.

  1. Support

Beyond line management; people need wider support and care. Ensure there is a community where success can be celebrated and problems shared. Encourage all individuals to be part of this community. Think how your organisation or team can create this community. In the age of flexible working and gig workers, organisations need to plan for community and not rely on serendipity.


So, think about your next hire, or your next promotion or the next role you create. Push the reset button and use this opportunity to create a purpose considering the three points above. Alternatively think about the individual who clearly is struggling at work or the individual that is always stressed.

For businesses, good mental health leads to increased employee engagement and performance gains so making an easy change like redefining what a job-spec is can be a simple but effective strategy that you can do today.

Gary Rayneau

Gary Rayneau is co-founder of PROJECT 23 - a performance consultancy, passionate about people. Specialising in organisational culture, diversity & inclusion, coaching and training within the media sector, their mission is to get more people to love their jobs. Gary Rayneau and Elaine dela Cruz created PROJECT 23 in order to give commercial value to organisations whilst having a positive impact on the media industry and the individuals within it.

We welcome your opinions and feedback to articles that appear in Mad World News. Please send comments and suggestions to We also invite editorial contributions for future editions of Mad World News. Guidelines for contributions can be found here.