by Tony Vidler
Pretty much everyone running a business hates having to come up with job descriptions for their staff. A statement which may have been correct at a moment in time to describe a role, and the role is subject to constant change…they are pretty much a waste of time as means of managing your people well.
The key problem with job descriptions is that we try to accurately capture the key tasks and functions of a staff members position without necessarily having clarity to begin with about how we are going to measure their success. Hence there is uncertainty about what it is you truly want from your people, and they in turn are naturally just as uncertain about what it is you want.
This uncertainty is then complicated by us having to measure performance against that initial static job description. As time goes by and we adopt new technology and new practices within our business then people’s tasks and perhaps entire roles change so the job description has a tendency to become increasingly irrelevant over time.
Then we are told that best practice in HR requires us to use what really amounts to a quite ridiculous performance appraisal process….something convoluted and incredibly time consuming which is little more than a function designed by bureaucrats to reinforce the need for the bureaucrats themselves. These appraisal systems more often than not create tensions and confrontations which would otherwise not need to exist between co-workers and management who were otherwise happy with each other. They largely then become demotivating for everyone involved in the process other than the bureaucrats who suddenly see a purpose for their own existence because there are now unhappy people in their own workplace. An entire industry has been created around this process, which says plenty about the usefulness of the process itself inside a typical business.
Sure there is employment law in abundance that dictates how contracts must be structured, and there is a “compliance” need for an accurate employment contract with an accurate Job Description. Sound management would also suggest we should have a process of checking in with the staff and communicating regularly about how everyone and everything is going too.
The problem with job descriptions though is they capture the minutiae…the daily humdrum tasks of a position….without providing clarity on what is most important. Often when hiring advisers (as opposed to support staff) to work with your firm there isn’t even a job description – there is simply a legal contract for service. It is little wonder that there is often a gap between the principal of the firm’s expectations, and those of their people.
Most modern performance appraisal systems suck. And most people in the workplace dread them. Avoid them if you can get away with it…and if you can’t, then get rid of the damned things as fast as you can.
You can manage your people better than that. Your people want a better working relationship than that.
Give them the certainty that they need. And that certainty is created back at the start….before any job description is designed.
A fabulous mantra to remember when hiring anyone and then trying to work out how to remunerate and motivate them is “you will get the behaviour you reward“. It is logical therefore to first identify what those behaviours are if you are going to reward them as part of your contract with staff.
If you can capture your thoughts on what behavior you want it becomes very simple to write a “Role Description” which is VERY different to a job description. A role description gives guidance and clarity about what the big and important things are. The Job Description really only provides explanation and guidance about how a staff member might go about executing those key objectives.
An example of a very very long Role Description for an employed Financial Adviser might look like this
The point in having a clear role description that can be captured in a relatively small number of bullet points is that it creates clarity for everyone.
There is no doubt what is valued. There is no doubt how success will be measured. There is no doubt about what elements of the role are the most important things. Most importantly though it empowers your people to find creative ways to achieve the objectives. It liberates them to a degree from the detailed tasks of a Job Description.
To achieve higher levels of engagement and performance from your people give them a clear role description. If nothing else, they will be totally clear about you as a business owner want. And THAT alone will make it easier for you to achieve your business objectives.