Critical Roles

Gain a competitive advantage through identifying the critical roles in your organization and tailoring your HR policies and practices


Importance of Critical Roles

Employees who possess both valuable and unique skills are critical or core knowledge employees. It is therefore important to identify critical roles as a precursor to addressing the people issues in your organization, including their capabilities, development, retention, availability, etc.

The intellectual capital and corporate memory of your organization resides predominantly in these critical roles. They are likely to be central to innovation and knowledge generation and a source of competitive advantage. Furthermore, there is a considerable body of research confirming that the people factor is now regarded as the single largest driver of business success. This is one of the reasons why we are seeing an increased emphasis on succession planning and talent management.

Critical Roles, Performance and Investment

The quickest way to improve organizational performance is to focus investments in human capital disproportionally on those who occupy critical roles. The organization may invest more heavily in people in these roles, including coaching, training and development, and pay a premium to people in these roles, particularly where those roles link more closely to the core competencies of the organization. Focusing on people in these jobs optimizes an organization's prospects of success.

Examples of Critical Roles

The nature of critical roles varies from organization to organization. The following list provides some illustrative examples of critical roles:

  • senior managers, executives (e.g., regional managers, divisional managers, area managers, business unit managers, senior administrators, production and distribution managers, marketing managers)
  • business development managers and key specialists (e.g., strategic and business planners, general counsel, purchasing managers)
  • designers/innovators (e.g., product and services developers, researchers, fashion designers, programmers, architects, graphic designers)
  • sales persons (where more extensive product or services provision training is required and where the product and services are of a more sophisticated nature, e.g., medical drug sales)
  • highly specialized professionals with very rare skills in particular areas (e.g., scientists, consultants, technicians, lawyers, doctors, etc.)

Critical roles form one quadrant of our four quadrant skills' based model for segmenting your workforce. Identifying to which quadrant each role belongs is an important first step in managing your organization's human capital.

Expert View Author: BA(Hons), BEng(Hons), MBA, Managing Director, Advanced Workforce Strategies.

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