The 3 Dimensions of a Job: Style, Pace, Risk

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Aug 3, 2018

I’ve spent over 25 years in human capital management and I’ve gotten 10 certifications in the space. Through the use and study of various assessments and workforce analytics, I can tell you that every job at any company contains some sense of nuance that can make it unique. But, by and large, there are three key dimensions that make up every role: style, pace, and risk.


Is it more critical that the person in this role understand people or tasks? What are the traits that are going to make someone successful in this role?

  • Task-oriented — Are you seeking someone who is a critical and creative thinker who has a technical orientation and an inquiring mind and enjoys problem solving?
  • People-oriented — Or are you looking more for someone who is empathetic, persuasive, sociable, service-oriented, unselfish, and comfortable on a team?


Does the job require dropping work to address surprises, or is time predictable and largely controllable?

  • Action-oriented — Are you seeking someone who is proactive, takes the initiative, is competitive, driven to get things done, achievement-oriented, impatient with routine, can work at a fast-pace, and responds positively to pressure?
  • Process-oriented — Or are you looking more for someone who is responsive, consistent with repetitive work, cooperative with others, tolerant, patient, dependable, steady, and easygoing?


Does one take risks in this role, keep an eye out for risk, or avoid risk? Is one accountable for results or activities?

  • Comfortable with risk — Do you want someone who is independent, individualistic, self-confident, firm, decisive, venturesome, and resistant to authority?
  • Cautious with risk — Or is it more important for them to be cooperative, supportive, conservative, willing and helpful, concerned about criticism, accurate and careful, with a need for rules and structure?

I like to think of it this way: I’d prefer my personal CPA who is filing my tax returns to be task-oriented, process-oriented, and cautious with risk. Conversely, if I am looking for a salesperson for my new start-up venture, I’d prefer them to be people-oriented, action-oriented, and comfortable with risk.

I realize that is an over-simplification to illustrate the three dimensions for any role, but each dimension can play a key factor in shaping a company’s future and culture.

How this played out for one company

For example, not so long ago at a mining company in a galaxy not so far away, they were having a recruiting problem. (Or so they thought.) They had placed an ad all over the internet for a skilled labor position. And while they were not expecting to be flooded with hundreds of resumes, they were hoping for more than the six responses they got (one of which was the local pizza delivery guy who did not meet any of the requirements, but apparently had big aspirations, or perhaps he was simply sick of smelling like pepperoni every night).

Sophisticated workforce analytics were utilized to discover that the real issue they had was around one of the three key dimensions for any role – risk. The mine had experienced a number of fatalities in the last few years. Though within the norms for the mining industry, it was clearly impacting their ability to grow and attract new employees.

When looking more closely at who had perished, they discovered a pattern: all of them were supervisors. Upon further investigation they discovered a pattern in several of the incidents. The rules say that if an alarm goes off, everyone must stop what they are doing and retreat from the mine immediately and without delay. What was actually happening was the alarm would sound and the supervisors would instruct their crews to exit while they stayed behind for just a moment to see if they could get their arms around the problem and correct the situation so they could keep working to save time and money.

What the analytics showed

When looking at the workforce analytics they found that all of the supervisors who perished were task-oriented, action-oriented, and comfortable with risk. With this information they began an aggressive retraining campaign throughout the company. Everyone was retrained in safety criteria and requirements. When hiring and promoting employees to supervisor, they utilized the workforce analytics to gain awareness around whether someone was cautious with risk or comfortable with risk so they could coach any gaps that were revealed to ensure everyone’s safety.

Within two years, they were able to proudly report zero fatalities. This went on for five years in a row, and then something unexpected occurred; the company’s insurance rating improved. The company decided to share the ensuing cost savings by offering safety bonuses. They made the employees responsible for themselves and each other. As a result, they went over 1500 days without even a minor safety incident.

This new culture shift to one that is cautious with risk created more revenue as the production line ran smoothly and swiftly, with fewer and fewer worker’s compensation claims being filed, and they achieved their original goal: growth. They no longer have to place ads anywhere because they have a folder that is over three inches thick full of resumes of qualified candidates who are willing to pay their own relocation costs to come work for the mine where no one gets hurt.

The workforce analytics brought awareness around the three key dimensions to any role and helped them turn the tide and achieve their goals. It also saved lives.