You value your multi-taskers and rely on them in a crunch. Tom from accounts receivable can jump in when Sarah in accounts payable is off sick. Brent from sales can handle the phones and greet people when receptionist Sophia is on vacation. Henry from shipping can do inventory when George is on a delivery. Capable and willing to do any tasks asked of them, these talented generalists are the heart and soul of your business. Kudos for successfully nurturing a culture of well-motivated team players. But, there are advantages to job specialization, for both you and your staff.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Job specialization is the process of getting your people to do just one job so they can get really skilled in that area and get even better over time.
What Is Job Specialization?
Job specialization is the process of getting your people to master a skill in one specific job area so they can focus solely on that area and complete all assignments with the minimum of supervision. Also called the division of labor, job specialization may be a desirable goal for your business as it grows. Imagine if you could have seasoned experts in each field at the forefront of your organization. Your customers would love it, and productivity gets a boost as everyone works faster and better in a familiar job function. That's what job specialization provides.
What Are the Advantages of Job Specialization?
When jobs roles are specialized, it leads to higher productivity. Workers produce more when they occupy one specialized role. The marked improvement in efficiency is due to employees becoming adept at one specific job as they perform it day after day. Another time-saver is the ability of the worker to focus on completing one job instead of having to switch mental gears and change workstations to do another job. Developing your own in-house specialists leads to industry recognition and research breakthroughs. It contributes to employee status, attracts high-caliber employees and much more.
What Are the Disadvantages of Job Specialization?
Specialization is not a one-size-fits-all panacea. Some generalists thrive on being jacks-of-all-trades and having a variety of tasks on their plate. These workers enjoy constantly learning new jobs and the flexibility of working in several roles, and may grow restless if you trap them in one job. The biggest concern some workers may have about specializing in one job is job security. They wonder what might happen if their area of specialty becomes obsolete. Staying abreast of the newest technologies will keep your company innovative and ensure your workers' specialties will not disappear in your business or the marketplace.
How Do You Transition Employees to Specialization?
Essentially, it's about training your staff to do the specialized role they are most suited to. During the transition into a more specialized workforce, you can help your employees find roles that are a good fit for their skills and personality, and offer training to plug the skills gaps. For your production staff, especially in a factory setting, and also for your hardened generalists, you can offer incentives for advancement so workers do not feel trapped in a dead-end job. Provide training so they can make higher wages as they become more specialized and perform more complex tasks. Make learning resources available to all job levels in your organization and give employees equal opportunities to keep them motivated.
Based in Ontario, Susan Dorling has written professionally since 2000, with hundreds of articles published in a variety of popular online venues including the Houston Chronicle, SF Gate and Work.chron on a diverse range of business topics. Self-employed for more than 35 years, she enjoys writing about entrepreneurship and small business.