Occupation, job and position are fundamental terms in the field of human resources. The notions are clearly related, but it is essential to distinguish between them – particularly to optimise strategic workforce planning. In this article, we delve into the exact meaning of these three concepts and highlight the differences.
A position is the set of tasks and activities assigned to an individual in a given company. It is therefore tied to a very specific work situation. Several elements constitute a position: a work content, a dedicated place of work, specific hours, and compensation. According to the definition of the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), “a position refers to an employee in a business establishment”. In other words, if an employee works in two different organisations, he or she holds two different positions. The INSEE specifies that an employee’s main position is the one that pays more. In other words, there are as many positions in an organisation as there are employees.
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Tasks and professional activities are also closely related concepts, but the two should not be confused either. An activity involves a set of tasks, carried out according to a logical process. The purpose of the activity is to achieve the position’s goals.
« A single job may refer to any number of positions that are very similar in their goals and activities. »
What’s in a job?
A single job may refer to any number of positions that are very similar in their goals and activities. Consequently, a job is a group of positions that require similar skills. Several employees can therefore hold the same job. The French Observatory of Jobs and Qualifications distinguishes between three different types of jobs:
→ Growing jobs, for which there is sharply increasing demand and investment in terms of staff and resources
→ Declining jobs, for which there is a rapidly shrinking need
→ At-risk jobs, subject to major changes in their activities and required skills, due to a variety of internal & external factors of transformation.
And what’s a “Occupation”?
An occupation, on the other hand, refers to a set of jobs related by the same technical skills. According to the aforementioned Observatoire des métiers et des qualifications, an occupation therefore represents “a hard core of common activities” requiring very similar skills. Unlike a job, an occupation is not immediately linked to a specific organisation or to the structure of a department or company. In the field of HR, the notion of occupation is particularly useful for training and professional development purposes.
Example of the distinction between the three notions
In a company, the sales agent’s occupation covers several jobs: sales assistant, sales manager, etc. The specific job of sales manager, on the other hand, may refer to various positions, depending on the region: e.g. Sales Manager, East Midlands and Sales Manager, Northern France.
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