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Giving job candidates minimal job descriptions and letting their develop their own role could be key for successful innovation, according to the UCL School of Management.

Assistant professor Vaughn Tan found that teams were more successful when employees were able to find and claim components of their roles that were useful, and drop components that were neither useful nor desirable.

It’s a hiring approach that works for companies in innovative and rapidly changing industries, like technology start-ups, advertising, film production—and cutting-edge food, he said.

Mr Tan said: “Because we can’t predict the future, companies that need to innovate often have only a partial idea of who they need to hire and what those people need to do. Under these circumstances, it makes no sense to hire people as if we know exactly how their roles should be defined.

“In the most innovative restaurants, job descriptions are often minimal because things change so quickly and unexpectedly. New people join knowing a large part of their roles are undefined, and they work out how to customise their roles so they’re personally satisfying and useful to the teams they’ve joined.”

Publishing his findings in Administrative Science Quarterly, Mr Tan said many hiring practices today are poorly suited to the rapid changes confronting many businesses. He advises hiring managers to be frank about the level of certainty in the role they are hiring for, and explicit with potential employees about both the defined and the undefined parts of a role.

Lisa Forrest, head of internal talent acquisition at Alexander Mann Solutions, said: “This approach to hiring could support the development of a truly diverse workforce and better prepare businesses for the uncertain and highly flexible, digitalised era of work.

“Recruiting high-performing individuals who easily adapt to change will be hugely beneficial in creating a strong, future-proof business. Perhaps more importantly, this approach to employee-led career development will both reduce staff turnover and arguably increase productivity.”