Friday, May 30, 2008

Developing a Job Description

Developing a meaningful job description is the foundation to finding the right person to do the job. If the description of duties is too vague, it will be too difficult to identify the skills needed to be successful in the position. If the description is too tight in terms of previous experience (not transferable skills), identifying the right person may take a long time. However, just as in construction where the foundation determines the success of the building, your job description foundation will determine the success of your search; and the employee’s success after they are hired.

Many managers just want to move to the search and hire someone who’s a “fit”. After all, developing a good, effective job description takes time and thought. Managers are being pulled in many directions. Taking the time to think about a position and its goals seems like too much work. Just call HR and get a job description is the mantra of most hiring managers.

Is retention a problem at your company? Take a look at your job descriptions. You are probably hiring the wrong people over and over again.

The benefits far outweigh the time taken to create this foundation.

1) An effective job description will make the skills necessary to succeed crystal clear. This benefits the manager, the candidate, and the recruiter. Why waste your time on candidates who either don’t have the right skills (despite what seems to be the right experience) or who are not interested in some of the required duties? A candidate may look at the description and tell you they are not interested because of this responsibility or that one. Let’s get the objections up front.
2) An effective job description becomes the foundation of the interview, not the candidate’s resume. Sure, you use the resume to ask questions about the candidate’s experience, but what is important is that you are focused on whether this person will be successful in the position (not “can do the job”!).
3) The effective job description will be used after the best person is hired on their first day. The manager will sit down and discuss the position again with the candidate – “Remember during the interview, we discussed the responsibilities and goals of this position?”
4) Then it can be used as a basis of discussion during the one on ones between the manager and the employee after the person has begun working. I am convinced some managers are reluctant to have those discussions with their people because they don’t know what to discuss. The strong job description has quarterly goals listed that provide the foundation for these discussions.
5) Finally, at the end of the year there is no surprise during the annual review. The goals were met or not met; and both the employee and manager have discussed them throughout the year. The annual review is also the time when the manager and employee discuss the quarterly goals for the next year. Hopefully the employee will have met most of their goals and now more challenges are laid out, many by the employee. One of the foundations of LEAN office and manufacturing systems and Six Sigma is to go to the people doing the work for suggestions on how to improve the process.

How do you build a strong job description foundation? Remember it is worth the time to get the fundamentals down. That’s how sports teams win championships. They have the fundamentals so well ingrained that they can do the fun things that help them win competitions.

1) List the day to day responsibilities. Every job has some tactical responsibilities. This list is the foundation of the tactical work that has to be successfully accomplished in order to be successful. Sometimes this is an eye opener all by itself. When you are done you may either ask yourself why you are hiring someone to do this job; or you may realize this position really requires two people. “No wonder the other three people left this position…”
2) List the special project responsibilities. These may or may not be tactical duties depending on the position. Sometimes they are projects that need to be done during certain periods of the year (for instance: year end for accounting and finance, harvest time for a food manufacturing company, beginning of the school year for school administrators, etc.)
3) List the people with whom this position needs to interface in order to be successful. What are their personalities and communications styles? This is very important because depending on the candidate, their communication style may or may not be successful communicating will some or all of the people. (Usually a big retention issue).
4) What are the strategic duties for this position? Typically these duties require vision, goal setting, and problem solving skills. If you are a hiring manager, this is very important to your success, not just the new employee’s success.

Once you have these duties and communication requirements laid out, you are ready for the next very important step - Developing the goals for this position.

1) List the 3 month goals for this new employee. These goals may be a little different for an internal candidate than an external candidate. These goals may also be different depending on the time of the year the person starts. Generally these goals will be more tactical than strategic. If you are ranking the employee on their success in their first three months (and you should), what will you use to determine if they are successful so far? The candidate also needs to understand these requirements. Success in the first three months is important if you want to retain the new employee. This is the time they are learning their position, the corporate culture, the people with whom they interface, and your management style. This is also the time when it is important for the manager to protect the new employee from the sniping from jealous co-workers, some of whom may have felt they deserved this opportunity.
2) List the 6 month goals. By the end of 6 months of performance in this position, the new employee should be better prepared to make some more strategic contributions in their role. Therefore, your 6 month goals should reflect some success in achieving strategic goals. Remember the goals need to be challenging And they need to be attainable.
3) List the 9 month goals. At the end of 9 months, the new employee should have a near total understanding of the position. They should be performing their day to day tasks and working on their strategic and special project goals. They should also be preparing discussions on process improvement for their position because this is when they are looking at everything with fresh eyes and not have the “that’s just how we do it” attitude.
4) List the 12 month goals. One of these goals needs to be developing the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 12 month goals for the next year. This keeps a person fresh in their position. It also provides the manager with the information they need to develop their goals for the next year.

If you follow this process to develop job descriptions:
1) Your employees will be happier and more productive;
2) Your retention will improve;
3) Your company will be more successful;
4) And you will be happier.