Job design in the digital age | KPMG | AU
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Job design in the digital age

Job design in the digital age

Companies traditionally have a structured approach to role descriptions and pay alignment, but the work people do and the way they engage with organisations is dramatically shifting. Organisations need to embrace a more fluid way of forming jobs, hiring talent and rewarding people, to fit new demands.


Partner, Leadership, Performance & Reward

KPMG Australia


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In most industries, a job title conjures an instant image of the type of role, level of professionalism and likely remuneration it provides. However, in the increasingly digitised, globalised and agile world of work, these definitions are being upturned.

“The structure of traditional jobs is no longer a reality, and this will be amplified in the future,” says Tim Nice, Partner, Performance & Reward, KPMG. “Most people are in a much more fluid state concerning how work gets done.”

For organisations to be relevant, competitive and to attract great talent, they must rethink the way they construct roles, how they value them, and find unique ways to offer reward, he explains.

“As an organisation changes its processes, you have to ask, how do you change the jobs to suit, and which jobs should you keep?” he says.

Jason White, Director, Performance & Reward, KPMG, adds that with work becoming “less sequential and less procedural”, and much more “fluid and dynamic”, positioning people in one role for a long-period, with a fixed pay packet, will become less common.

“People will be more likely to be engaged in multiple projects or activities at a time,” he says.

Skills first, titles second

With innovation at the fore, disruption vast, and technology advances such as Artificial Intelligence prevalent, it is necessary to tailor a workforce to meet new demands, rather than fitting people into fixed org-chart structures, Nice explains.

“Ask, what are we trying to achieve? How can we gather people both internally and externally, to get that activity done?” he says.

This ‘network’ approach involves analysing the skill sets needed and expectations for different tasks or projects, and finding the right way to deliver them.

“Which routine jobs can be done through the automation space, which parts could be done more efficiently through cognitive computing, and which tasks need ‘people qualities’ like strategic thinking?” Nice says.

White says this way of thinking will impact how organisations hire people and form teams, but also how they structure reward.

“How do you structure the remunerations around new job design, when typically it was always just about the role and pay scales?” White says.

Pay scales lose impact

Organisations typically look to historic figures or market standards when setting remuneration packages. Nice explains: “There are methodologies for building pay structures around job levels and job groups – and that’s all well ingrained. When you adapt that to the changing nature of work, it is a combination of throwing out some old practices and evolving others.”

Nice says fixed pay can still be important, as people want certainty, but pay will become more closely linked to the value people bring to strategic outcomes.

“As you interchange people and skill sets on different projects, and look at what the expected return is, ask, what are we prepared to invest to get that done?” Nice says.

White anticipates that offering project-based remuneration will become more common.

“People are working on less-permanent arrangements, and a portion of their salary will be linked to outcomes that rather than a simple base salary,” he says.

This can be more immediate and effective, with reward linked to what they’ve just delivered, rather than an annual bonus.

Non-financial rewards

If organisations wish to attract the best talent, looking at new ways of delivering non-financial rewards can offer an edge.

“Non-cash rewards may become the distinction between being a permanent employee or a contingent employee. Employees can have a rapid discussion with their leader about results and their contribution, and then the leader can tailor reward to the individual and what was just achieved,” Nice says.

Non-financial rewards might comprise elements such as location agility, health and fitness provisions, assisting with family care, and access to resources, advice or higher learning.

“It’s looking at all the tools in the tool kit,” Nice says.

Rethinking roles and pay has its benefits

As companies adopt more fluid approaches to hiring and reward, White says there is great opportunity to become less ‘process driven’ and to develop greater alignment with what the business requires. He says it can also open doors for the people involved.

“The opportunity to get exposure to a broader set of projects and the ability to be fast tracked is going to be quite attractive during this period of transition,” he says.

Nice adds that with good staff in demand from competitors, and talent increasingly mobile, the onus is on employers to get the balance right.

“Employees must be transparent about how they structure remuneration and reward, and how it works for the employee,” he says.

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