Why Role Clarity Should Be a Key Focus in Your Organization - And How to Improve It | Zavvy (2023)

You've hired some of the hottest talent in your industry, invested in your onboarding processes, prioritized employee wellbeing, and developed a company culture to be proud of. But something's missing!

Does it feel like your employees are confused about what they're supposed to be doing?

Perhaps you're noticing arguments between colleagues, or they're dropping balls because no one realized they were responsible for a critical business task.

These are all top signs your employees are lacking role clarity.

🔍 What is role clarity?

Role clarity takes stress and confusion out of the equation. Providing your employees with absolute certainty about their main tasks at work and offering context shows how their individual responsibilities fit into your organization's bigger picture.

These specific responsibilities might include:

  • Tasks
  • Deliverables
  • Processes
  • Goals
  • KPIs

When role clarity is flawless, expect an employee to know their own objectives, what their colleagues' roles involve, and how they mesh together for business success. Like cogs in a wheel!

Jordann M. Andrusiak, Advisor & Director of Business Solutions, at Synergy Capital Solutions explains,

"Clarity is a crucial element in the organization, and organization is the foundation of business. By emphasizing clarity, employees see how their work contributes to the greater good of the company to encourage improved performance."

⁉️ What is role ambiguity?

In contrast, role ambiguity is what happens when an employee has a lack of clarity about their job.

And it's more common than you think, with only60% of employeesstrongly agreeing they have clear expectations about their role.When performance goals and accountability are constantly shifting, this leaves plenty of room for confusion.

Role ambiguity can occur in businesses old, new, and of any size. At the newbie end of the scale, startups with fluid workflows often have an "all hands on deck" approach to roles as they fast-track the growth of their new business.

But existing companies don't have it easy either — confusion develops when there's pressure to scale and innovate.

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Some of the downsides of role confusion include:

  • Overlapping tasks -having two or more employees producing the same work is a role conflict and a waste of resources.
  • Miscommunication -large, distributed teams often suffer from communication problems and unclear directions, which role clarity can alleviate.
  • Friction between co-workers- passing the buck from one person to another or onto a different department is common when there's a lack of alignment. Transparency about roles will increase trust amongst colleagues.

❗️ Why does role clarity matter?

In some work situations, role clarity can be a matter of life and death.Naga Siddharth,Vice President of HR for Supr Daily, discusses how pilots need to have absolute role clarity when they're flying.

"Life literally depends on their work. Each of them knows what to do, how to do and when to do it. There is a call out "my aircraft" when the pilot in control takes over, and the other pilot responds "your aircraft" to confirm. No instances of, "but I thought,...."

This model relies on a seamless handover from one colleague to the next to ensure the task is completed smoothly, with zero chance of failure. But when the stakes aren't as high as a plane crash, what are the benefits of role clarity in a traditional business?

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Role clarity in the workplace createsgreater employee engagement, which keeps your team happy in their work.

In fact,this studyby the International Journal of Service Industry Management demonstrates the relationship between role clarity and improved job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and customer service quality.

A true reminder that investing in role clarity is a win-win for your organization.

Avoiding burnout

On the other hand, lack of role clarity is1 of the top 5 reasonsemployees suffer from work-related stress or burnout.Mayo Clinicagrees, citing job burnout as the result of unclear job expectations.

"If you're unclear about the degree of authority you have or what your supervisor or others expect from you, you're not likely to feel comfortable at work."

Employee retention

During The Great Resignation, it's been critical for companies to keep hold of their top talent. And we know94% of employeeswill stay longer at a company if it invests in their growth. So, why not make it easier for your employees to remain loyal to your organization by:

  • outlining their current role
  • predicting what their role will look like in the future
  • enabling them to follow a defined career progression path?

👩 Why is role clarity important in teams?

As a classic role clarity example, let's look at how teamwork is integral in sport.

In a World Cup-winning football team, each national player must get used to playing a different role than at league level. Each star must have crystal clear role expectations about their position in attack, defense, or supporting the mid-field.

The team's main objective is to score goals and win the match. But on an individual level, the players know to trust their teammates implicitly and decide when to keep the ball themselves or pass it to a stronger player in a better position.

It's no surprise this role clarity creates the precise harmony required in successful workforces.

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Need another example?

In 2014, Steve Yzerman selected a team of league all-stars for the Canadian Men's Olympic Ice Hockey team, but he assigned their roles based on"positional need, player style, and teamwork", putting aside their individual successes.

By giving each of these stars clarity about their new positions on the national side, Canada beat Sweden by 3-0 to win a Gold medal in the tournament.

📏 How do you measure role clarity?

Role clarity is a process that can integrate easily with employee onboarding to support your new hires in getting to know their new job.

But when your team members have been working with you for years, their idea of what each job role entails can be firmly embedded.

So, how do you measure whether lack of role clarity is an issue with existing employees?

Here are 2 role clarity strategies:

  1. Distributing a simple role clarity questionnaire
  2. Running a role clarity exercise such as the Acid Test.

1. How to create a role clarity questionnaire

Submit a role clarity survey to your entire team or organization to see whether role clarity is secure or needs to be improved.

Ask your employees to respond to the following statements with:Strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree or strongly agree.

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Submit to your entire organization to gain a flavor of whether role clarity exists. If you're looking for general, honest feedback, ask your employees to fill in the questionnaire anonymously.

But if you need granular insights about the specific areas of your business lacking role clarity, collect names and job titles too.

2. How to create a role clarity exercise: the Acid Test

Business trainer and coachMike Clarkexplains the Acid Test will"check that everybody knowswho they're meant to be reporting to,who reports to them, but more than that, to also be clear onwhat people are meant to be doingin their role: why are people employed?"

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The test works by asking each employee to write down the three to five key tasks they're employed to achieve within the role. You'll check these responsibilities to see how they compare with your three to five role characteristics.

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Clark reveals,

"What I often find is that the first thing, the main reason they're employed is normally pretty clear. By about the third one, we're beginning to get a bit gray, and the chances of having the reasons totally aligning often just doesn't quite match. If you want to leverage the strength of your team, be clear on their role."

📈 How to improve role clarity

Zavvy'semployee growth solutionssupport organizations in creating relevant competency frameworks and clarifying roles. Each role is clearly defined and assigned a seniority level, so there are no doubts about what each employee and their colleagues are responsible for.

"Establishing role clarity is easy when you prepare for it.

Like any other process in the organization, role clarification must be well-thought-out. It cannot just be a verbal briefing explaining employees' roles.

It should be based on in-depth written materials. So always provide broad job descriptions with details of the position.

You can also include the tasks of other team members, thus showing where the lines are. Ensure this information is always available to your employees."
-Nina Pączka, Community Manager ofMy Perfect Resume

Tip:Use the results of your role clarity questionnaire and Acid Test to help define the roles within your company.

1. Create employee role cards

Achieve high role clarity by defining employees'competenciesand including them on role cards to eliminate confusion.

A well-thought-out role card will detail preciselywhatskills and capabilities are needed andhowthe work should be done.

The best practice is for HR to involve industry experts in these tasks to create relevant competency frameworks.

For example, in a data scientist role, you wouldn't expect HR to understand the intricate details of this technical role – instead, they should reach out to professionals who do.

2. Define employee focus areas

Within the employee growth cycle, team members are encouraged to participate in defining their own focus areas. How can they achieve this?

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Why not take inspiration fromUpstart's CEO Dave Girouard, who considers #WWYRD, or what would your replacement do?

He explains,

"Another mental exercise I've invested in is thinking about what would happen if tomorrow my board got together and fired me. What if they said, "Dave, thank you for playing. You're done. And they went out and found the very best CEO in the world, one who would just make me look like a fool? What would she do differently than what I'm doing? I think about that for a while and then I tell myself, "Why the hell aren't you doing those things?"

3. Use career progression framework templates

With competencies, role card templates, and focus areas in place, this forms the foundation of your career progression framework templates. Managers can monitor and support anemployee development planwhich will display the individual's progress and completion rate.

Your career progression framework will outline:

  • The roles across your organization
  • The roles each team member can progress to
  • What they need to achieve to move along their progression path

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➡️ Check out these sample career progression modelsto get inspired.

When to provide role clarity?

"Many team leaders have found themselves saying, "We'll figure it out" when it comes to hiring people they want on their team, but hiring without clarity on what a role entails is a big mistake. Get clear on what you need, create the job description, and then hire."
- Tom Ferry, Real Estate Coach

Knowing when to define role clarity in your organization can be complex. Visit and revisit this area regularly as your structure and processes evolve.

So when is the right time to provide role clarity?

  • During recruitment- at this super early stage, attract the right candidates with clear role definitions. Distribute these in your job ads or promote them throughout the application process.
  • During onboarding- help your new employee understand their role and how it fits into the overall structure of your organization.
  • During performance reviews- role clarity should be revisited as part of your employees growth plan. Doublecheck your employee's expectations still align with the company and highlight any changes to the role.
  • Restructuring- from redundancies to acquisitions, make sure each employee understands their exact responsibilities if there is any type of structural change in your line-up.
  • Succession planning- if you've identified a candidate with a bright future at your company, provide clarity about theprogression frameworkthey're following between now and their eventual succession. This may include promotions and lateral moves.

How to create role clarity in hybrid teams

So, let's address the elephant in the room: remote working. Even if you've had a reasonable level of clarity in your office-based business, the lines can blur when you shift to a remote or hybrid work environment.The hybrid model is relatively new to many organizations, and there's still a degree of 'figuring it out' to be done in the virtual workplace.

"Clarity is one of the most powerful indicators of success in today's organizations, especially as they become increasingly distributed."
- Erica Keswin, author of "Bring Your Human to Work."

Role ambiguity can also happen in communication - when you have half a team in a coworking space and the other half distributed around the world, whose job is it to keep projects on track?

Support role clarity in a hybrid setting by creating a directory of role cards, including a clear communication structure. This should clearly highlight:

  • who each team member is
  • who they report to
  • the tasks they're responsible for.

This transparency also helps eliminate biases that creep in towards office-based employees who meet face to face.

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➡️ A shortcut to establishing role clarity in your organization

Still not sure whether role clarity exists in your business?

Look to your employees to find the answer. Follow strategies such as role clarity exercises and interviews to evaluate how much employees understand about their tasks and responsibilities. Then respond appropriately by creating role cards, defining competencies, and developing a career progression framework your team members will be excited by.

Itching to get started? Use thispeople development softwareto improve role clarity for your entire team.


Why is role clarity so important? ›

Role clarity takes stress and confusion out of the equation. Providing your employees with absolute certainty about their main tasks at work and offering context shows how their individual responsibilities fit into your organization's bigger picture.

Why is clarity of thoughts important in an organization? ›

Organizational clarity is crucial because it forms the foundation of empowerment. The days of strict hierarchy and decisions being handed down from on high are over. The environment in which we must function is simply changing and moving at such a speed that there is not time for excessive contemplation and waiting.

How does clarity help a team achieve its work? ›

Clarity improves a team's ability to execute, its ability to change directions confidently, and its overall satisfaction because people have more confidence that they're doing the most important work they can be doing and understand why it matters in the grand scheme of things.

How can I improve my role at work? ›

Other 18 areas of improvement at work
  1. Improve your time management. ...
  2. Try to do important tasks first. ...
  3. Set clear goals. ...
  4. Improve your communication skills. ...
  5. Don't try to do your own, delegate. ...
  6. 9. Make use of the right tools. ...
  7. Give yourself down time. ...
  8. Encourage desk cleanliness and organization.
Dec 21, 2022

What is one action you will take to improve role clarity? ›

Role Clarity: Define The Future in the job description

For an HR Role, maybe they will have filled several key missing roles and have an employee satisfaction survey in place. Dream big. List the outcomes out. Don't worry about debating them and discussing them or getting them word-smithed.

What is role clarity with example? ›

An employee experiences role clarity when they know what they need to do and what is expected of them. The content of their tasks, work methods, and priorities are all clear, and the employee is aware of their role within the organisation.

What is clarity in an organization? ›

Organizational Clarity is the comprehension an employee has about the organization's vision, purpose, mission, strategy, opportunities, chal- lenges, priorities and competitive reality.

How do you achieve clarity and focus? ›

How to promote mental clarity
  1. Get enough quality sleep. How much sleep you get is directly proportional to how much energy you will have throughout the day. ...
  2. Manage your stress. ...
  3. Practice mindfulness. ...
  4. Find a work-life balance. ...
  5. Practice self-care. ...
  6. Move your body. ...
  7. Maintain a healthy diet. ...
  8. Ask for help.
Nov 29, 2021

How do you create organizational clarity? ›

The most important practice to create clarity is repetition. Leaders and organizations must be persistent in repeating their most important messages over and over again. They should find different ways and means to communicate these messages without worry of sounding too redundant.

What are 3 good areas of improvement? ›

What are some of the areas that employees need improvement in?
  • Time management.
  • Communication skills.
  • Organization skills.
  • Customer service.
  • Teamwork.
  • Writing.
  • Accepting feedback.
  • Giving constructive feedback.

How can I improve and grow moving forward? ›

  1. Read often. Reading regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to learn. ...
  2. Adopt a new hobby. ...
  3. Sign up for a training session. ...
  4. Identify in-demand skills. ...
  5. Try a new schedule. ...
  6. Commit to an exercise routine. ...
  7. Set big goals. ...
  8. Change your mindset.
Dec 12, 2019

What are the benefits of having clear roles and responsibilities? ›

When roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, team members are more productive. There is less duplication of effort; less confusion, disappointment, and frustration; and greater productivity.

What are 2 benefits of clear role perceptions? ›

Benefits of Role Clarity

It increases organizational efficiency by enhancing accountability & ownership at individual level and team level. Clarity of job role enhances employee and team performance. It helps in measuring the performance of the employee.

What is the most important thing about clarifying roles tasks and schedules? ›

When you set clear roles and responsibilities, especially formal ones, everyone knows what's expected of them within the group. They know how to behave, what they need to accomplish, and how to reach the group's goals. Everything gets done.

How can you improve your accountability and responsibility within your role? ›

How to improve accountability
  1. Set achievable goals for your team.
  2. Consider constructive feedback.
  3. Make accountability a habit.
  4. Establish a culture of trust.
May 9, 2022

What are components of role clarity? ›

Clear job objectives, accountabilities, and responsibilities are part of role clarity in the workplace. Role clarity consists of clear definitions of job deliverables, processes, priorities, and stakeholders. A clear role means that the employee is aware and informed about their roles on a team or in an organization.

What is the focus of clarity? ›

Mental clarity is the ability to think clearly and process information quickly. When you have excellent mental clarity, you can better focus on the task at hand and get things done. Mental clarity and strength are crucial for accomplishing goals, solving problems, and making decisions.

How do you overcome lack of clarity in the workplace? ›

Effective conversation is the solution for gaining clarity, and for conversations to be effective, they need to take place frequently and include clarifying questions. We have to be willing to communicate what we're really thinking and feeling.

How do you solve for lack of clarity? ›

How to promote mental clarity
  1. Get enough quality sleep. How much sleep you get is directly proportional to how much energy you will have throughout the day. ...
  2. Manage your stress. ...
  3. Practice mindfulness. ...
  4. Find a work-life balance. ...
  5. Practice self-care. ...
  6. Move your body. ...
  7. Maintain a healthy diet. ...
  8. Ask for help.
Nov 29, 2021

How do you establish clarity? ›

Actions for creating clarity

List your values and find actions that demonstrate them. Communicate with others your vision and your one thing. Ask others great questions that help them identify “one thing” they can do to move forward. Listen to others intently and hear what is unsaid, as well as what is said.

What are the solutions to role ambiguity? ›

Managers can reduce role ambiguity by providing IS employees with a clear definition of tasks and priorities related to the job. This will provide a better understanding of task objectives and reasons for performing the task and a more clearly defined sequence in which subtasks should be performed.

What is role clarity in leadership? ›

What is role clarity? Role clarity is the extent to which employees understand their job, its responsibilities, and how their work influences the larger team or organizational strategy.

What is lack of role clarity at work? ›

A wide range of work situations can create role confusion, such as beginning a new job, starting in a new organisation, a transfer, a new supervisor or manager or following a change in the structure of a work unit. Lack of role clarity can lead to tension and conflict between workers.

How can I improve my ambiguity at work? ›

The 5 tips to help you manage ambiguity at the workplace like a star.
  1. Be self-confident and remain calm.
  2. Communicate and ask questions.
  3. Work on your problem solving skills.
  4. Accept change and evolve.
  5. Always have a plan.
Mar 1, 2022

How do you fix a role ambiguity in the workplace? ›

Here are five tips to become more flexible and adaptable in your career and better at dealing with ambiguity.
  1. Learn to Act without Knowing All of the Details. ...
  2. Confidently Take Risks. ...
  3. Plan for Different Scenarios. ...
  4. Communicate. ...
  5. Embrace Change.

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