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Are Your Job Descriptions Hurting Your Business?

A thorough, accurate job description is the key to a successful team. When an employee knows what is expected, it's far easier to strive to do a good job. But some organizations are still using outdated job plans that have been shown to be ineffective.

New, more effective job plans focus on the duties that are required, rather than the experience a person should have. To be most effective, job plans should be performance based, outlining between six and eight objectives for each position. The plan should list specific goals for a position. An administrative staff member who processes applications each day could have a job plan that include wording such as, "Processes 100 applications each day without error."

Problems with Traditional Job Descriptions

The years of experience often mentioned in many job descriptions can be an inaccurate predictor of success. In fact, many businesses have found that the best employees can often be those who are able to learn quickly, rather than those who have years of work experience in a certain areas.

By being specific about a job's expectations up front, a business is more likely to attract and retain employees who are able to tackle the task. New hires know exactly what they are getting themselves into and, through regular performance reviews, supervisors can update workers on their progress at meeting those expectations. In the above-mentioned example, if a worker is unable to reach the goal of 100 applications every day, the job description provides a jumping-off point for discussions. Supervisors may find this is an unrealistic goal, given the other demands placed on that employee.

Required Documentation

In the unfortunate event a business has to let an employee go, a detailed performance-based job plan will prove invaluable. This job plan can be used as a jumping-off point for a supervisor's performance reviews to create a paper trail of employee conversations. The employee processing only 20 tasks a day when the description clearly states 100 could be warned in writing and marked down on evaluations repeated times before finally being let go. This will help in the event the employee retaliates with legal action.

Takeaway: Replace Traditional Job Specs with Performance Based ones:

If you are in a bureaucratic environment, then write and interview on your own performance based description)

Traditional Job Description:

The Person

1. BS degree

2. 2-4 years sales experience

3. Industry background required

4. Product knowledge essential

5. Strong interpersonal skills

6. Good solution selling skills

Performance Profile:

The Job

1. Achieve quota within 90 days

2. Obtain 20% new customers/month

3. Conduct thorough needs analysis

4. Coordinate proposals with engineering

5. Prepare detailed cost/benefit analysis

6. Manage multiple projects in intense environment.


Source Lou Adler ERE


Hiring the wrong employee can be devastating to a company, especially if it happens repeatedly. A well-crafted performance-based job plan can help businesses hire and retain the best employees possible, giving the employee a firm sense of an employer's expectations.

After all, who do you want to hire the one who "has all the skills" on paper or the one who can get the job done?