Deconstructing Jobs—What’s it All about?

deconstructing jobs


We’ve heard about the labor shortage (yes, this still exists despite layoffs), quiet quitting, and the lack of employee engagement. What’s a Talent Manager to do?

Recently there’s been a lot written about deconstructing jobs. Think about job descriptions and how job analysts write these descriptions to include the skills, tasks, key responsibilities and knowledge required to perform the job. To further explain, work is constructed into job descriptions and is the “storehouse” of competencies and performance indicators which are connected to the rewards bestowed by the organization. Unfortunately, these descriptions are linked to compensation and performance management and do not identify the critical skills or talent needed to perform a particular job. In addition, organizations are spending lots of time and money trying to acquire talent based on outdated job descriptions.

According to John Boudreau, a deconstructed job offers more appealing, complex realities for job criteria that provides a very different value in different situations.  For example, he states that leading a team is most important in some situations, however in different times, it is the opposite.  Deconstructing reveals the “return on improved performance” for each part of the job. 

According to Jesuthasan and Boudreau, incorporating the principles of the “New Work Operating System” means that this new system must enable leaders and workers to increasingly — and continually — deconstruct jobs into more granular units such as tasks, and that it must identify and deploy workers based on their skills and capabilities, not their job descriptions—this is essential to the deconstruction of jobs. Deconstructing work is essential to implementing new options for sourcing, rewarding, and engaging workers, and to understanding and anticipating how automation might replace, augment, or reinvent human work.

Deconstructing jobs allows leaders to rethink talent strategies and adopt the seven elements of the new work operating system.

There are 7 elements of the New Work Operating System:

  1. Work as deconstructed job elements (tasks)
  2. Work automation as optimizing task-level combinations of human and automated work
  3. Work arrangements that include a boundaryless and democratized work ecosystem
  4. Workers as whole people with an array of deconstructed capabilities and skills.
  5. Perpetually reinvented task/project combinations and work arrangements beyond traditional employment.
  6. Management and work coordination as hubs of teams and projects aligned on goals/purpose and integrated through human/AI platforms and HR systems.
  7. Social values and policies that enable and rely on fluid work arrangements and holistic worker capability to achieve worker sustainability, voice, equity, and inclusion.

Steps to create deconstructing jobs:

Start with the work (current and future tasks) and not the existing jobs.

  • Combine humans and automation.
  • Consider the full array of human work engagements (e.g., employment, gig, freelance, alliances, projects, other alternative work arrangements).
  • Allow talent to “flow” to work versus being limited to fixed, traditional jobs.

Consider current or future jobs, the focus of the new work operating system should be for organizations to ask the following questions (Jesuthasan and Boudreau):

  • What are the elemental tasks with the process?
  • What are the characteristics of each task (repetitive vs. variable; mental vs. physical, independent vs. interactive)?
  • What is the objective we are trying to solve for each task?
  • Does automation substitute for the human, augment the human, or create new work?
  • What are the available types of automation (robotic process automation, cognitive automation, or social or collaborative robotics)?
  • What is the optimal way to combine human and automated work across jobs and processes?

The rapid evolution of work is making it increasingly urgent for leaders, workers, organizations to start thinking about jobs by deconstructed work. Deconstructing work is essential to the future of workforce goals and supports Talent Management Strategies for sourcing, rewarding, and engaging workers, and to understand and anticipate how digital automation will support or reinvent human work.

Now is the time for Talent Management and HR to up its game in deconstructing jobs as we know them! We need to be out front and influencing organizations to find innovative ways of optimizing talent and enhancing performance.


Cornerstone Resource Center,  “It’s Time to Blow Up Job Descriptions”,  by John Boudreau, Professor USC-Marshall School of Business

Toptal Insights, “Deconstructing Jobs:  How Innovative Companies are Reimagining Work”, by Karen Stenz

“Work Without Jobs-How to Reboot Your Organization’s Work Operating System”, John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan

About the Author

Patricia Dammann, is the Strategic OD Leader at the Institute of Organization Development.  She can be contacted at

About IOD

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