Job descriptions are usually the first exposure a future employee has to your business. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get off to the best possible start.
Position descriptions are like a road map to your business. Properly constructed, they help your staff find their way and better understand the game you are asking them to play.
Here’s how to use them to your lasting advantage.
What are Job Descriptions?
A job description is a written document that clearly states the required duties and responsibilities of a specific role, including the essential skills, education and experience required of a successful candidate.
Completing a job description typically involves the following steps: observing, recording and collecting job related tasks and activities; checking the job related tasks and activities for accuracy; writing a job description based on the information and using the information to determine what skills, abilities, and knowledge are required to perform the job.
Why are Job Descriptions important?
The problem with most job descriptions is that they are little more than lists of activities (“do this, do this, do this”). These can be called “activity-based job descriptions” since they focus on the activities that we want people to engage in.
Businesses that use activity-based job descriptions face a similar problem. When it comes time to conduct evaluations of workers that are performing poorly, the employees invariably defend their behavior by showing how they had, in fact, done every task listed on their job descriptions.
This is akin to claiming to be the world's greatest painter by virtue of having memorized the manual. It is also about as effective.
Most people will never do any more work than is necessary to accomplish the results they want. In this spirit, I suggest that every small business owner, manager and operator will be better served if they define positions in terms of results instead of activities.
Using “results-based job descriptions” and defining results allows employees to interpret their jobs in a way that works for them. The immediate advantage is increased productivity, enhanced customer service, improved culture, reduced turnover and more constructive performance appraisals.
They self-select the best staff for you.
How to Use Results-Based Job Descriptions
The transition from activity-based to result-based job descriptions is relatively straightforward. A results-based job description has the following four parts:
Part 1: Position Summary
This is a concise statement of the reason the position exists. For example, a summary for a customer facing staff at a coffee shop might be summarized as: “Delights coffee shop customers with responsive food and beverage service.”
Part 2: Core Professional Functions
These are all the job related tasks and activities required in the successful performance of the position. This section is the same as an activity-based job description. For example, the front of house staff in a coffee shop's functions include selling and serving food and beverages to customers, taking payment, clearing and resetting tables, and so forth.
Part 3: Key Results & Performance Evaluation
This is the core of the approach. The results by which successful performance will be measured. For front of house staff, these might include “customers regularly ask for this person’s station, guests are acknowledged within one minute of being seated, stories of this person’s legendary service are common”.
Part 4: Qualification Standards
These are the basic physical requirements of the position in compliance with local regulations and guidelines.
What makes results-based job descriptions unique is the ability to define and measure results as the primary means of performance appraisal. They also make performance review more of a coaching exercise and less of a personal confrontation with employees. Plus, managers find that managing results is easier and more fun than watching activities.
Results-based job descriptions may take some time to refine and it is important to review them carefully before you use them to be sure they do not call for standards you are not prepared to uphold.
Better yet, review them with your staff and agree what is possible.
It’s well worth it.
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