What are your symptoms?
When you go to a doctor, he starts by asking about your symptoms and attempts to find the root cause. When I talk to people about hiring, they complain about symptoms of bad hires; employee turnover, poor performance, missing productivity, and bad team dynamics. What’s the solution?
The prescription is the description.
After hearing your hiring symptoms, my prescription is to write out 1000cc’s of process, followed by a dose of job descriptions until the symptoms disappear. As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,”and prevention for bad hires starts when you have an open position.
Ready to fill an open position?
Let’s start with what I build the entire hiring process around: the job description. Why? I run the entire hiring process around this document, and you should too. After I hire someone, the job description is the objective base to use for performance reviews. (Do you even do performance reviews?) When I first assess a company, I ask to see everyones job descriptions. Almost every time I ask, I get a puzzled, guilty look, and a quick “uhhhhhhh.” You need job descriptions for every position in a company, and you need update the descriptions as roles evolve. Why? First, which I’m not going to jump into in this article, is for performance reviews. (Hint: You run the review against the description) The second is for the time when someone resigns, gets fired, retires, takes a leave of absence, or just gets up and quits. When you have a sudden opening, you can pull up the job description and start the hiring process immediately.
So we need to start the hiring process for a position, and we need a job description. My general framework for a job description is; a paragraph describing the role from a high level, what position they report to, a skillset listing, and then listings with daily, weekly, monthly, and ongoing responsibilities. A job description should let any qualified person know what’s expected of them in the job. (I use another document, called a work planner, which tells someone how to perform tasks as part of the job.) You’re saving money and time by providing a framework to get new hires up and running quickly, with a basis to measure their ongoing performance. At the end of my post is a sample job description for a office manager to help you with the layout and description levels.
The full job description breakdown
- Position title – Easy! It’s the official title of the job.
- Job description – A paragraph with a high level view of the ongoing goal of the job. Avoid detail in this description, and keep it focused on concepts.
- Time commitment – Full time, part time, salary, hourly, specific days of the week. Be clear about the hours needed, and expected start and stop times.
- Skill sets – What you expect them to be proficient in. List each item out, but don’t go into micro-detail. Detail comes later in the description. Don’t forget skills such as writing, phone etiquette, basic math, or other items that impact how people view your company. A great hire with poor grammar can hurt your image with customers!
- Platform – This is the detail of the tools used from the skill sets, and what knowledge I expect. In the office manager sample, LINK, note how I had Quickbooks as a skillset, and in platform; I detail out specific conceptual skills I expect in Quickbooks.
- Responsibilities – The detailed list of ongoing responsibilities, which I like to break down by functional business unit. (Sales, marketing, etc) Bullet point the items out, and fill in details as needed. Be thorough on this and try to capture everything possible.
- Daily/Weekly/Monthly Responsibilities – If the position requires performing time sensitive tasks, include them here. Items that people forget include timesheets and expense reports for basic positions.
Why should you care?
In short, we set and manage expectations between the two parties in the hiring process. Managing expectations effectively requires an objective standard to measure against, which is the job description. Some key areas where we need to manage these expectations include:
- Job postings – We get better applicants with a proper description of skills
- Interviews – We have a basis to interview and assess skills with
- Job offers – Both parties can agree on the position and expected work product
- Reviews after hire – We have an objective standard to assess our hire, and how they are performing
A key note on job descriptions in small companies and startups. People will write a job description for a multi-role position, when they need two job descriptions instead. Why? As you grow, splitting the roles is via hiring is simple. A great example is a programmer who does the bookkeeping in a startup. It would be a nightmare to hire someone to take over both of these roles! One person can have multiple job descriptions, so keep descriptions separated by business skill sets such as accounting, managing, sales, etc.
Put it to practice!
Before you run out and try and write descriptions for everyone in your business, try this approach instead. With your team, give a 10 minute review of an example job description, then ask everyone to write out a description for their position. I’ve learned more hidden things about businesses by having employees tell me what they really do, and not what managers think they do. Review the descriptions with the employee, and add them to your HR files for performance review and hiring needs. If you’re feeling really empowered, build an org chart in Gliffy or ProcessOn, and link the roles to the job descriptions in Office365 or Google Docs.
Take your medicine.
Successful hiring revolves around setting and managing expectations between the employed and employer in the workplace. Businesses who manage expectations gain better workplace morale, longer employee tenure, high quality of work, and happier customers. Businesses who manage on shifting or poorly defined expectations experience employee turnover, angry customers, and a generally toxic
work environment. Break the cycle, and don’t discount the value of job descriptions in your company.