Providing Direction – Stop Your People Guessing What You Want

by Paul Phillips

Most people know what takes up their time at work – but they are not often sure it is what the boss wants or the business needs.

The subject of job descriptions often brings up opposing views. Some thinking they are necessary and others seeing them as a liability because people will use them as a defence saying, "it's not on my job description".

Properly constructed job descriptions can provide that final link between corporate direction and the individuals working to make it happen.

The secret is to have them focus on the end result required by the job, not the tasks and activities required to achieve it.

Identifying Key Result Areas (KRAs) is a key part of the JD. If there are more than six to eight then they may no longer be the key ones. As the respective areas of the job are identified, ask, "Why is this being done?" Keep asking this until an end result that is suitable for that level of job is arrived at.

For example, a marketing assistant may spend his time organizing the printing, proof reading and distribution of brochures. Rather than listing all the different elements in this process the KRA could be written as: Ensure all current customers receive information monthly on new products and special deals.

The other major part of JDs is the measures – or how does the jobholder know they have been successful. In this example we could use measures such as: "All prices correct. Received by 5th working day of the month. All artwork agreed with Marketing Manager."

The Accounts Clerk responsible for matching up invoices, statements and other assorted documentation and then paying suppliers may have a KRA that says, "Ensure all suppliers are paid for goods and services received." The measures can be: "100% accurate. No supply is stopped due to non-payment. All goods and services received in full before payment made."

The more intangible jobs can often be defined by identifying the internal or external customer. Someone who has to attend meetings to collect information, influence others and solve problems should ask the same question – why? The answer, after asking this several times may be "To meet the agreed needs of the Operations Department with regard to quality issues." The measures may be: "Agree a plan with relevant stakeholders and deliver quality assurance against plan." Using this same model, i.e. develop a plan, agree it with stakeholders and then deliver against the plan, can be used in a variety of apparently less tangible KRAs.

We are often asked, "How many measures does one need?" The answer generally is "enough to reach agreement on whether the result has been achieved or not." The discussion should be very brief on whether the result was achieved or not. There may be plenty of discussion on why not and what needs to be done to fix it.

Business Benefits Using JDs to identify and measure those results that directly link to the corporate plans ensure people are clear what is required of them and their overall efforts are going to be channeled into moving the business forward.

From an employee perspective, we also know that they are much more likely to be satisfied with their work and perform at a higher level if they know what is expected from them and can gauge their own level of achievement.

Other advantages, apart from being a legal requirement of most contracts, are in being able to be focused in recruitment, training and rewards and, consequently, much more effective and integrated management of people.

Copyright © Paul Phillips

About the Author

Paul Phillips is a Director of Horizon Management Group; a specialist human resource management consulting firm. He has over 30 years experience in HR and, while based in Australia, has worked in a number of overseas locations.

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