Defining Roles and Responsibilities

Defining Roles and Responsibilities Drives Team Productivity

You can dramatically improve team productivity just by defining roles and responsibilities in your organization. This definitive step-by-step guide teaches you how to define roles and responsibilities in a team, why it’s so important, and how to create a defining roles and responsibilities template that will keep everyone on track.

This is the ultimate guide to defining roles and responsibilities for your organization.

If you want to:

  • Improve role clarity within your teams,
  • Understand how defining roles and responsibilities strengthens relationships among remote, hybrid, and in-person teams,
  • Develop a culture of accountability,
  • And drastically increase team productivity;

…then you’ll love this guide. Let’s get started.


What’s Covered in this Guide

Click the links to jump to each section.

Why Defining Roles and Responsibilities is Vital for Small Business Success

Role clarity, defined in one study as “the degree of understanding people have of their roles, responsibilities, and processes at work,” is essential for better performance.

Netherlands-based human resource consulting firm Effectory finds team members who are clear about their roles and responsibilities are 53% more efficient and 27% more effective at work. This results in a 25% increase in their overall performance.

When people have high role clarity:

This study also finds that role clarity extends to an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of other team members. The role clarity of one affects the many. If anyone on a team experiences “role ambiguity,” it can cause confusion and stress, which affects not only individual effectiveness but the company’s overall performance.

When every person is clear about their roles and responsibilities, we're engaged with defined goals and priorities that align with our organization’s purpose. We're essentially free to find our own way to get our work done. Research shows that companies that score highest on engagement are 21% more successful at creating value for their stakeholders and score 17% higher on productivity.

Platforms like Ninety can improve role clarity within organizations by visually displaying everyone's role and responsibilities, linking each person to the processes they're accountable for, and more. Try Ninety's Roles and Responsibilities Chart free for 30 days.

The Importance of Defining Roles and Responsibilities for Remote and Hybrid Teams

Here’s what defining roles and responsibilities in a team can do for your company:

  1. Everyone knows what’s expected.
    When roles are defined, people know what they’re doing and understand how their responsibilities fit into the bigger goals of the entire team. They’re more likely to take ownership of what they need to accomplish.
  2. Nothing slips through the cracks.
    When responsibilities are defined, people understand their role in terms of accountability for Issues, To-Dos, and Rocks that could otherwise be forgotten.
  3. Collaboration is a key action.
    People understand how to work together more effectively to achieve positive outcomes. When we communicate roles to the entire team, we nurture mutual respect. When responsibilities are distributed equally among the team, people can see the importance of their actions to the overall success of the team and the organization.
  4. Communication flows better.
    When everyone understands each others’ roles and responsibilities, we know who we should go to with specific questions. There’s no fumbling around while trying to find the person responsible for a process. Team members can go straight to the source when they clearly understand who is responsible for what.

The Benefits of Defining Roles and Responsibilities in an Organization

Your organization will:

  1. Improve the hiring process.

    You’ll have an easier time finding the right people for the right seats if the candidates understand the role and its responsibilities. Both external and internal candidates benefit from knowing the clear expectations of any role and what success looks like for that role. Everyone can appreciate why new roles are created, which also enables better transparency within the organization.

  1. Develop an accountable culture.

    Developing accountable relationships among leaders and teams requires the clarification of both roles and responsibilities. This enables everyone to work together and adapt to whatever comes next for your organization.

    Measuring performance is always a work in progress. When you’re disciplined about making clear agreements among team members given their roles and responsibilities, they understand how to count on each other and build trust among each other as part of the team’s DNA. Your organization gets better results almost immediately and creates a strong structure that enables high performance.

  1. Use time and resources wisely.

    With clear roles and responsibilities for everyone, you can look forward to wasting less time, eliminating redundancies, and spending fewer resources on mitigating conflicts among stakeholders — bringing you one step closer to operational efficiency.

How to Define Team Roles and Responsibilities [2 Steps]

The process for defining roles and responsibilities starts with determining the reason for creating any role within your organization and how the responsibilities of that role enable solutions for addressing a need or problem.

In other words, look at what you need and figure out how to get it.

Step 1. Create clear individual roles and responsibilities.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a remote or hybrid team? Roles and responsibilities work together to define what a person does at work, whether remotely, as part of a hybrid workforce, or working from anywhere. Generally, a role is a person’s place, or seat, on a team. Responsibilities are the duties and tasks assigned to a role.

The standard criteria for creating a job description look like this:

  • Seat/Position Description: an overview of the seat’s role within the organization and its function, tasks, and responsibilities.
  • Functions/Tasks: a detailed rundown of activities the seat is accountable for.
  • Responsibilities: the expected results associated with the position.
  • Competencies: a detailed list of skills, capabilities, and capacity to fulfill the responsibilities of the seat.
  • Experience and Education: Training and knowledge required for acquiring competency in the position.
  • Key Performance Indicators: an explanation of how performance is measured and evaluated.

However, a person’s role on a team is more than a job description. Roles are based on a team’s mission and the contributions required to accomplish it. Contribution involves:

  • Knowledge and expertise
  • Experience
  • Capabilities

A person’s responsibilities on a team are based on what the team requires them to do in their role to accomplish the team’s mission. Responsible engagement involves:

  • Offering guidance, advice, how-to instructions, research, etc.
  • Thinking strategically on behalf of the team
  • Generating creative ideas and executing them
  • Performing specific work related to a team’s mission

Setting clear roles and responsibilities for individual team members helps leaders delegate work so everyone knows what they're supposed to do.

But clear roles and responsibilities on their own won’t encourage great teamwork or sustain high performance. This leads to Step Two.

Step 2. Create clear agreements for people to work together.

People need to know how to support each other as part of a team and the organization. Creating clear agreements about what you can count on from others will enable better teamwork, ensure accountability, and drastically improve team productivity.

Clear roles and responsibilities clarify what each team member can do to achieve success. Clear agreements give everyone a better understanding of what they can count on from everyone else to sustain success. This step will not only improve productivity. It makes it easy to keep great productivity going.


4 Tips for Defining Roles and Responsibilities That’ll Drive Productivity


Tip 1: Use your team’s strengths.

Understand how the individual strengths of team members combine to create the uniqueness of your team. This approach can motivate your teams to achieve great things. You avoid grouping people into a standardized mold and focus on out-of-the-box solutions for nearly every challenge you’ll be facing.

Tip 2: Discuss priorities every week.

Think about when priorities aren’t set. It usually leads to lost opportunities, missed deadlines, misunderstandings, poor communication, and a lot of burnout. A well-run weekly team meeting can’t be beaten for effectively collaborating and agreeing on what needs to get done first. 

Tip 3: Show people that you have confidence in them.

When you allow people to take ownership of their roles and responsibilities, it shows them that you feel confident in their ability to get things done. Once they start making decisions, they’ll also be more likely to take the initiative and grow in their role.

Tip 4: Align roles, responsibilities, and individual goals. 

Learning more about your team members’ short- and long-term goals will help you incorporate their passions into the unique organizational and operational goals for your team. It shows you care about their aspirations and that you plan to support their future endeavors. This enables leaders to coach team members based on individual roles and responsibilities, their performance, and how these help achieve bigger goals for themselves and others.


Get a Roles and Responsibilities Chart [Template for Defining Roles and Responsibilities]

One defining roles and responsibilities template that can help you get the job done brilliantly is the Roles and Responsibilities Chart within Ninety. It’s an interactive, cloud-based template for defining roles and responsibilities at a company, departmental, and individual level. With it, you can create a clear way for everyone to see and understand their roles and responsibilities, how they fit into the bigger company picture, and how performance is measured.

With Ninety's integrated functionality, you can tie in roles and responsibilities, add metrics, and assign ownership and accountability — all from your Roles and Responsibilities Chart

Here are the steps to follow:

1. Build Seats

With five seats to start, all you have to do is customize the chart for your organization. You can add seats at any level and edit each seat to list roles and responsibilities in detail.

2. Assign People to Seats

Easily assign or reassign a person to a seat. Need multiple seats with the same function? Avoid adding duplicate seats by adding multiple people to one seat.

3. Reorganize Accountability

You can move seats, change managers, and make updates at any time. You never have to feel stuck with what you got after you start building your chart.

4. Connect to More Content

Within each seat of the chart, you can connect metrics to specific roles and responsibilities. Easily review team members’ productivity in detail.

5. Share with the Team

Share your chart with other team members and outside stakeholders. Everything prints out neatly to PDF.


Understanding User Roles

Within Ninety, you’ll notice different roles like Owner, Admin, Manager, Team Member, Observer, and Coach. These roles for using Ninety tools give different permissions for viewing and editing content, inviting new users, and more. Here’s an overview.

  • Owner The person who creates the company account in Ninety. The owner sees information for every team, even if they are not a member of that team.

  • Admin – The person with the same user permissions as the owner, except they cannot delete a company account. 

  • Manager – The person who can access and edit information for teams where they are a member. They have access to Settings, so they can create new teams and users, but only for their own team. They can view only their own 1-on-1 conversations.

  • Team Member – The person who can access and edit information for the team(s) where they are a member.

  • Observer – The person who can only view information related to their team(s).


5 Tips for Building Roles and Responsibilities in Ninety

Tip 1: Set a first draft deadline.  

Create a To-Do for each team leader to finish building their teams and seats in the organizational chart, where it is visible to everyone in the company.

Tip 2: Talk about it with others.

Easily review the chart during your weekly meetings. Create an Issue so you can discuss and solve it as a team.

Tip 3: Feel free to assign one Seat to multiple people.

If multiple people have the same seat, they also have the same roles and responsibilities. 

Tip 4: Collaborate until it’s the way you want it.

Your chart is a living document, ever-changing as your company grows and people outgrow their seats. Ninety provides tools for moving seats and changing managers, making for easier organizational changes.

Tip 5: Let it evolve over time.

Once you’ve lived with your chart for a while, you will likely find a reason to change it. Revisit and adjust it whenever you need to evolve. Fully integrated with the rest of your Ninety app, the chart is visible, accessible, and easy to change.

Get access to the Roles and Responsibilities Chart, Issues, To-Dos, Scorecards, Rocks, and more! Sign up for a free trial with access to all Ninety functions, features, and support.

Now that you’ve learned about defining roles and responsibilities, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice:

  • A role describes what a person does within an organization that helps build trust among team members.
  • A responsibility describes specific tasks a person is accountable for to achieve their team’s goals.
  • Role ambiguity creates confusion among team members and redundancies within an organization.
  • Clearly defining roles and responsibilities helps companies enable workers to be more focused, work together better, and accomplish more at work.

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