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Andi Gray: How to create tailored job descriptions

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We’re wrestling with how to specifically tailor job descriptions to each individual, so we’ll know exactly what we would want people to handle. Feels like a lot of work. Want people to accept and embrace the results. Want to be as clear as possible about what’s expected. 

andi gray
Andi Gray

Thoughts of the Day:  Create a map of the organization. Get employees involved in customizing templates. Lay out requirements. Remember to refer back to job descriptions when it comes time for reviews. 

Most jobs in a single department have a lot of commonalities, so start with an overall description of what’s required for people who work within each discipline of the business. Do that by writing up a template for each group of jobs: sales, marketing, operations, human resources, finance, IT and so on. Human resources helps with recruiting, hiring, exiting and everything related to people in between. Finance predicts and tracks results and manages assets and liabilities. Sales and marketing feed the organization with new and expanded business opportunities. IT keeps everyone up to date with technology. Operations produces and delivers on the promises made to customers. 

Successful interaction among departments is as important as producing results within departments. Clarify who each department ultimately reports to. Lay out expectations for cross-supporting departments. 

Sales and operations should work closely together to ensure consistency between what is sold and what is delivered. Sales depends on marketing for leads and marketing needs input from sales to map out competitive strategies and define optimal approaches to vertical markets. Finance depends on forecasts from sales and marketing, translates that into expectations for operations delivery and upcoming hiring requirements, and keeps score on how well every department performs. IT provides tools and data for everyone. HR provides personnel and rules for how people work together and keeps everyone legal. 

For every department and position, build in goals, accountabilities and expected results. Focus on “what” more than “how.” Refer to the company’s annual and multiyear goals. Talk about how each department contributes to the company’s overall success. 

Include the intangibles as part of every job description, no matter what level or department: commitment to personal development, innovation, attitude toward success and collaboration. Define your company’s culture expectations. 

Using the appropriate department description, sit with each employee and manager to talk about individual activities and responsibilities. Get a picture down on paper of what each job looks like daily, weekly and monthly. Map out how an individual might progress from entry level to mastery within a position and within a department. 

Define the basic requirements a candidate must meet in order to get hired for specific departments and positions within those departments. Look at the gaps between people who excelled and people who struggled. Identify skills, behaviors, education and life experiences that have contributed to others’ success in the same jobs and set those as requirements for future candidates.  

Use job descriptions in the hiring process. Make adjustments 90 days into the job, as you get to know the strengths and weaknesses of the individual you’ve hired. If possible, focus the job around the things your new employee is good at, with some developmental things to work on over the upcoming year. Do monthly check-ins on progress, providing feedback on what’s going well, what to focus on next. A year in, set aside time to review results formally. Ask employees to refer back to their job descriptions, providing written notes on successes and things to work on next. Follow up with a meeting to document results, making adjustments to the job description for the upcoming year.  

Looking for a good book? Try “Perfect Phrases for Writing Job Descriptions: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases for Writing Effective, Informative, and Useful Job Descriptions” by Carole Martin. 

Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., StrategyLeaders.com, a business-consulting firm that teaches companies how to double revenue and triple profits in repetitive growth cycles. Have a question for AskAndi? Wondering how Strategy Leaders can help your business thrive? Call or email for a free consultation and diagnostics:  877-238-3535, AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com. Check out our library of business advice articles: AskAndi.com.

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