Partner Perspectives: Job Descriptions Will Disappear

Günther Tengel, Managing Partner of Amrop Jenewein in Austria, discusses traditional job descriptions and the question of whether the system of the working world is toppling, or evolving in a relatively painless way.

Interview by Karin Bauer, Der Standard, Austria, 7 November 2016

Point of View

STANDARD: The rules of the game in executive search have changed tremendously. There is a big gap - a great many people who are no longer needed, and a very few who are sought-after and can hardly be found. What does this mean for talent advisors, for job descriptions?

Tengel: Even today, we still look for executives, as far as the CEO, using job descriptions. It’s a paradox: the future is uncertain, but all the job descriptions we receive seem to be very sure of themselves, or at least formulated in a very exacting way. I expect that in a couple of years we’ll hardly have job descriptions any more. Job descriptions as we know them will disappear.

STANDARD: Because everyone can do everything quite flexibly, and the rest can be bought in from outside, saving costs, and no-one will be hired for fixed posts any more?

Tengel: Above all, because in doing so, the team approach that’s needed can’t be captured. It’s less and less about individuals, or about a collection of individuals. There will be teams that transcend organizational boundaries, teams who compete and co-operate, teams in which fixed employees work with independents, project people, interims. These teams will very probably be in a state of permanent adaptation according to their tasks, competence, age, structure, diversity. Given this, what use is the most exact job description when I can’t even define what this team, these people will really be doing - or need to be doing - in two or three years’ time? Yes, we know that there are perfect candidates – but we also know that there are less and less of them.

STANDARD: Is this the end of headhunting?

Tengel: Quite the opposite: Human Resources will co-operate with executive search firms in a totally different way. One part of Human Resources will mainly be analysing data, another will take on coaching functions. Networks will be built up so that talents don’t disappear, there will be a perpetual state of active attraction and separation. The fact is already that companies apply for talents, not the other way round.

STANDARD: What are start-ups really changing?

Tengel: In the employment market they won’t change anything fundamental – in the near future they’ll be occupying too few people for that. But they have considerable influence where they help to introduce digitization into mid- and large-sized companies and in that way they help them be fit for global competitiveness. Technology start-ups are global set-ups.

STANDARD: How about the new world of personnel work, management and leadership? Does this mean that you believe in evolutionary development, that you don’t believe that the structures we know will completely break up, that they are toppling?

Tengel: Human resources and talent management are still under-valued – and absolutely not viewed in terms of risk aspects. The big changes come naturally – and pretty painfully. And at some point, the system will topple – at the latest when the generation-after-next, one that has exclusively grown up in a digitized world, takes over. Today, there are four generations in companies, the ‘power’ clearly lies with those who have very little to do with the central theme of digitization, have no experience of it. The generation of ten to fifteen year olds will not accept our core pillars of discipline, achievement, obedience, at face value – how we live, think, work, will change radically.

STANDARD: We [in Austria] already have over 400 000 unemployed, thousands of young people who can’t integrate into the workplace.

Tengel: Yes. We’re focussed on accompanying and steering these change processes – above all from a socio-political viewpoint. The so-called middle ground is also being cleared – on the one hand, technology is playing a significant role, on the other, there’s a distinct lack of so-called social skills, relational competence. You can also clearly see that independence and temporary working relationships are growing exponentially and that long term employment is sinking rapidly – I know studies that assume 30 to 40 per cent of jobs being long-term, from 2025 on.

STANDARD: And competencies quickly become obsolete…

Tengel: Potential is becoming more important than competence.

STANDARD: So, on behalf of personnel managers, here’s the question, then: what does it all depend on?

Tengel: On motivation, curiosity, keen insight, engagement and goal orientation. Motivation is the most important.


Günther Tengel is Managing Partner of Amrop Jenewein.

Original (German) interview here.