Are Fixed Jobs and Detailed Job Descriptions a Thing of the Past?


It used to be a simple question: What do you do for a living? The answer was usually one or two words: teacher, firefighter, retailer, administrative assistant or salesperson. In recent years, job titles and duties have become fluid, with an emphasis placed on flexibility and well-rounded employees who can work where they’re needed, when they’re needed in an organization. While fixed jobs and detailed job descriptions may not be a thing of the past yet, their importance is certainly waning. In another decade or two, they may truly be gone. The workforce will be less limited by job titles and descriptions.

Evaluating Skills

Many HR departments are shifting some of their focusOpens a new window from resumes to actual skills and reputation. Savvy companies don’t drop someone into a position and leave them there for years. Along with employee performance, modern organizations evaluate how the employees feel about their job duties. In that way, management can better determine what tasks workers do best. If that means dropping employees into another department or simply having them work in multiple departments, then so be it. An employee who may only be average in one niche may excel in another. The employee’s strengths are better matched with the company’s needs, keeping individuals and management happy and productive.


Experts note that job titles limit creativityOpens a new window . Too often, employees don’t tackle problems that are not covered by their job title. If front desk clerks offer a marketing opinion, they probably preface it with, “I wasn’t trained in this area, but,” signaling that they don’t expect to be taken seriously. When companies use titles, they can limit creative thinking from much of their staff. People worry about doing their limited tasks instead of how to best serve the company.

A company’s management can get more from its workers by eliminating rigid job titles or by making job duties less limiting. Employees need to be encouraged to use all of their skills in the workplace and not just those covered in their job descriptions. More companies are now embracing this approach and seeing excellent results.


In the last decade, many companies have begun the transition to a flexible workforce. Some workers job-share so that they can continue working but also have more time to parent or manage other responsibilities. Others take on flexible schedules or telecommute. Fewer employees work a 9-to-5 job while sitting in an office.

Perhaps the biggest shift has been to temporary workers and contract workers. This model helps keep a company financially fluid, allowing it to quickly increase or decrease the number of workers, depending on its needs. It avoids paying benefits, and once the contract termOpens a new window is over, the company has no further responsibility to the employee.

Retailers have used this practice for decades during peak seasons such as the end-of-the-year holidays. Large corporations have embraced this practice as well. They can use independent contractors for IT purposes, engineering tasks and even advertising campaigns. If they need an expert, they simply hire one for six months instead of taking on a permanent employee.

Some employees prefer this type of arrangement because they can retain their independence and easily transition into working for another company. These jobs certainly don’t offer the level of financial security employees expect from more traditional jobs, but they do offer much more freedom.

HR Hiring

Human resource departments no longer look for employees who will fill one position for the next 20 or 30 years. ExpertsOpens a new window say the future workforce will be a blended one that includes full-time employees as well as contractors, freelancers, consultants and so on. As a result, HR departments are changing their hiring methods and becoming more flexible themselves. They are hiring specialists for short-term projects while hiring permanent employees who can undertake multiple roles.

To keep full-time employees, some companies are allowing them to test drive new responsibilities and learn new skills while they remain in their current jobs. In this way, companies provide room for growth without locking employees into new roles they may not be suited for or even like.

HR departments are also working more on building teams and less on individual employee development. By assembling teams of creative thinkers with a variety of skills, they are getting better results than by focusing only on the individual.

Fixed jobs and detailed job descriptions are still a huge part of both small and large businesses, but they are being challenged by new ways of looking at the workforce. Many companies are trying to improve employee performance by making their jobs less rigid and giving them a variety of duties suited to their talents. Employees spend less time doing tasks at which they don’t excel and more time using their skill set effectively.

Full-time, permanent positions are on the wane. Companies are using more contract and temporary workers to provide the expertise they need in the short term. They can then return to a leaner workforce when their consumer demand decreases. For this reason and others, fixed jobs may soon be a thing of the past.