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Creating Successful Job Descriptions For SME (5-100 Employee) Businesses

By Andrew Ardron on Tue 11 January 2011 in Marketing

The number one rule with job descriptions is to ensure that at the end of the process everyone is empowered to deliver your vision, goals and targets – not constrained or limited by a narrow-minded or tunnel-vision view of their daily tasks.

A job description that just lists that tasks someone needs to carry out is USELESS – in fact its worse than that – its DANGEROUS and DAMAGING to your business. Such a job description will limit their involvement, create a “that’s not in my job description” mentality. Most importantly, it will hardly make someone feel valued or enthused about their role within a dynamic and successful organisation.

To be USEFUL and to have a POSITIVE impact on business ACHIEVEMENT then your job descriptions need to be heavily focussed on defining the RESULTS of the role or job. i.e. the job is not about going on sales visits or doing demo’s, it’s about generating orders; it’s not about running the Sage accounts system, it’s about managing the cash and delivering useful management information.

NUMBER TWO, A STRUCTURE TO MAKE THEM EASY TO PRODUCE

The reality is that you are going to want to delegate the writing and agreeing of job descriptions – either now or when the business gets bigger. But, that doesn’t mean you want everyone inventing their own thing; you don’t want some great ones and some rubbish ones. So, to make it easy to delegate, each job description powerful but easy to complete:

a) Template about 50-60 % of the job description to be IDENTICAL for every single member of your organisation. After all, everyone is first and foremost a team player in the same team (organisation), reaching for the same goals, acting with the same level of customer service, espousing the same corporate values etc.

b) You then write a “Purpose Statement” yourself, before you let the managers loose. In a mid-sized SME (somewhere around 30+ employees) it is probably worth separating this into a Departmental Purpose statement and a Role Purpose Statement. This should be pretty short and sweet but should sum up that person or department’s value. It should answer the fundamental question:

“Why am I prepared to pay this person £X,000 every year?”, or put another way…
“What does this person have to achieve to add more value to the bottom line than we spend in keeping them employed here?”

c) To be honest, once you have done that, you could easily stop. You have actually got a pretty useful Job Description. But you will probably now hand it over to the manager to sit down with the employee, go through and agree the templated stuff – i.e. how everyone in the company should act, agree with them their purpose and what it means… AND AS A RESULT fill in the rest of the document to define, in more detail, what that person needs to do in order to deliver upon their purpose, and that of the department.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD TEMPLATE?

This is tough, but worth spending a lot of time on – after all it is going to be given to and agreed by every single person in the company.

Make it results oriented, growth oriented (growth for the business and the individual) and most of all make it reflect the values that you would like all employees to have and the reputation you would like your company to gain. You won’t want yours to be exactly like mine, but feel free to take a look at the sort of thing we use (company name removed to comply with ezine rules about not self-publicising – hopefully this doesn’t create confusion). I would strongly recommend sections like:

World Famous Team Member

[Company Name] is a World Famous organisation; striving to be World Famous in everything we do; doing everything as if that activity were to be talked about the world over. We treat each other World Famously and positively encourage and help each other to act World Famously.

As a member of the [Company] team, your job first and foremost is to actively play your part in the organisation and help [Company] to achieve its mission, grow its business and increase its profitability – in order to expand its reach & help more customers, as well as to increase the overall wealth and opportunity for employees & stakeholders.

As with any team, the organisation relies upon you to deliver upon the mission, goals and values of your department and your individual role, as well as working well with other departments and colleagues to help them achieve theirs.

and…

Key Results

[Company] is a results and quality-oriented business. This job description is based on outcomes rather than inputs. This gives the job holder greater freedom and greater accountability.

1. First and foremost, you must play your part in delivering and exceeding your department’s goals. mission and targets; while working with other departments to help them exceed theirs.

2. Furthermore, everyone is expected to contribute to enhancing the departmental and company-wide performance through actively increasing the targets and reviewing & refining the relevant goals, targets, processes and attitudes.

3. Where possible, you should also work to recruit, develop and mentor potential successors for your role, or parts thereof. Developing succession options at every level is key to allowing the business to grow and to offer you promotion and/or a change of role in the future.

4. More Specifically, within your role, you should:

a) specific things for you to achieve
b) specific things for you to create
c) specific results for you to deliver

and…

Key Tasks

Beyond or as part of delivering the Key Results above, you will be required to carry out a number of tasks to aid the effective execution of your role within the wider business. As with any medium-sized and growing organisation, every team member needs to be flexible, be prepared to pitch-in and prepared to take on new tasks and let go of reassigned tasks.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD PURPOSE STATEMENT?

This is again pretty tricky to get right. But there are a few useful steps to set you on the right path. First of all take a look at your organisation chart and make sure this really reflects the business shape that will help you grow and set clear responsibilities (and Purposes!).

If you don’t have a good organisation chart then read my other article on that! By the way, if you have read my article on organisation charts and have some employees in multiple boxes, then the best plan is to issue those people with two job descriptions – yes – they have two (or more) areas of responsibility, and multiple hats to wear right now – so this makes sense. Furthermore, when you come to hire someone into those “extra boxes” then you can whip out the relevant job description to help with the recruitment process and ensure you get the right person.

I strongly believe that to be really successful employees (and managers) need a single and clear purpose. So if you find yourself writing purpose statements that say…and…and…and… then you probably need to split this role into multiple roles (even if the two roles/jobs are currently being done by the same person – see my article on organisation charts to see how this can work).

From the organisation chart you ought to be able to define the purpose of the department and the purpose of each role in the department. Once finished, you ought to be able to look at them and ask yourself “if all of these purpose statements are delivered upon will we be achieving everything we need to be highly successful?” – if not, then you are missing something – a role in your organisation chart or some key purpose for one of the roles.

Again, I plan to publish a big set of examples separately in another article (again to make it easy for you to copy and paste, adjust and change) but here are a couple of examples to show you the sort of thing I am talking about:

New Business Sales Department

New Business Sales Departmental Purpose

To consistently manage a pipeline and exceed sales targets by winning professional, honest and profitable new customer deals…

…in order to ensure the business continues to grow in a Profitable and World Famous way.

Sales Consultant Purpose

To consistently manage your personal pipeline and exceed your sales targets with professional, honest and profitable sales, day in, day out…

…in order to ensure the department delivers its mission, values and goals in a Profitable and World Famous way.

Sales Manager Purpose

To Manage the new business sales department (people, processes and results) to consistently exceed targets with professional, honest and profitable sales, week in, week out…

…in order to ensure the department delivers its mission, values and goals in a Profitable and World Famous way.

Operations Department

Operations Department Purpose

To exceed delivery, effectiveness and efficiency targets while delivering quality, professional and profitable solutions (incl internal projects) that help our clients to grow their business…

…in order to ensure the business continues to grow in a Profitable and World Famous way.

Assistant Solution Developer/Consultant Purpose

To efficiently, effectively and professionally complete work packages assigned to you, delivering quality work to the project manager and sensibly balancing our billing profitability with customer benefit day in, day out…

…in order to ensure the department delivers its mission, values and goals in a Profitable and World Famous way.

Project Manager Purpose

To exceed your delivery targets by professionally planning and managing projects, delegating quality work packages to consultants, and delivering solutions (including internal projects) that help our clients to grow their business while sensibly balancing our profitability with maximum client satisfaction…

…in order to ensure the department delivers its mission, values and goals in a Profitable and World Famous way.

Operations Manager

To Manage the Operations department (people, processes and results) to consistently exceed delivery targets with high client satisfaction, week in, week out…

…in order to ensure the department delivers its mission, values and goals in a Profitable and World Famous way.

And while the examples above don’t include it, I have recently begun starting each role with “Do whatever is necessary to…” – this little adjustment from our Sales Director pretty much sums up what we need from employees in an SME – where you often find things don’t go according to plan!

I hope all that helps and I strongly recommend you have a go. I suggest you start off small. Just do a couple of job descriptions and then review what you have, refine your template and your purpose statements, then just rush through and get everyone in a position of at least having a basic job description (your template with your purpose statements). At that point you have something in place for everyone, and you have met your legal obligations (in the UK at least it is a legal requirement to give an employee a job description). You can then let the managers refine the job descriptions one by one with more specific results, tasks etc as required and over time.

Good Luck!

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