And Other Duties as Assigned

Screenshot 2014-12-08 07.12.35Job descriptions are on equal turf with performance evaluations as tools that are operating below their potential. Most organizations take a “one and done” approach to job descriptions and only dust them off when the position is posted on a job board. We figure that as long as we include the notorious “and other duties as assigned” disclaimer at the end of job descriptions we really don’t have to take them seriously. But when done right, the job (or position) description can be a key piece of the performance puzzle.

I’ve written a lot of job descriptions throughout my career. I’ve found that it’s both an art and a science – using best practices from a career field or industry is a good place to start, but putting the unique organizational spin on a description ensures I’m hiring people that fit with my company.

Using competency modeling helps create a job description that not only reflects the technical requirements of the role, but captures the cultural nuances necessary for success in my particular setting.

Korn/Ferry, a leader in the field of workplace competencies, defines competencies as the skills, behaviors, and attitudes that lead to high performance. (Lombardo, 2009) Defining what makes a person competent in a specific role has impact on both an organizational and individual performance level.

Trying to find a well-rounded person with a cross-section of competencies may not be best for your success. Hiring an accountant who can also sell may sound like a great “two for one” deal, but you might end up with a mediocre accountant or a frustrated salesperson.

Defining competencies for a specific job takes some skill, but there are resources available to help you identify what competencies will lead to the best performance from the individuals in your organization.

Follow these steps to identify the job competencies for each position in your organization:

  1. Make several copies of the table of competencies here. Get 2-4 colleagues together (including anyone already doing the job) and have each person circle the top 10 competencies they believe are necessary to be successful in that job.
  2. Identify the ones you agree on, then narrow the list down to 5-6 by discussing any of those that you differ on. Get to the most critical competencies. 
Use the definitions from the web site, and discuss what the term means to you and your organization. It’s important that everyone has the same understanding of the term.
  3. If you have a job description already, review it to see if what you circled matches with what the job description reflects. If they 
do not match, what is different? Make any adjustments based on your review.
  4. Use the list of competencies to clarify the job description and job posting templates.

Additional Helps

Note: As you consider which of the competencies are required for a particular position in your organization, think about how you define the item. For instance, “negotiating” may mean something very specific to you, but something very different to your colleagues. Come to agreement on how you define each competency. You may also identify competencies not listed on the web site table. This list is just to get you started.

A Google search of particular competencies will likely lead to some definitions that already exist. You may also want to check out the Lominger (Korn/Ferry) book, FYI: For Your Improvement, which provides greater detail on competencies and how to use them. Their competency card decks are pricy, but an excellent tool if you’ve got several positions to evaluate.

Once the job description is complete, it’s important to use it as both as a mirror and a compass. As a mirror, each incumbent in the role should reflect the image of what the position exists for. Not that every individual should look identical, but each should have the core knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies required for the role. As a compass, the job description identifies performance management and training focus to ensure continued alignment and skill development.

Regular review of job descriptions should be built in to the audit cycle of the organization. Annual position description audits might be too much for some company’s, but every couple of years makes sense. Any time there is a change in organizational design, or whenever new technology is introduced that has a significant impact on the role, the position should be evaluated and the description updated.

Maybe we don’t hate job descriptions as much as we do performance reviews, but we need to stop blaming the tool for failure. Operations and human resources leaders need to figure out how to build the right tools for their organization, and work together to get them to function for the organization and its human capital, not against. Maybe then people won’t be so cynical when they read “and other duties as assigned!”

  

Managing Your Crazy Employees

If you’ve been a manager for any length of time, you probably have your share of crazy employee stories– the employees you probably inherited and didn’t hire yourself, although I’ve been fooled a few times and created my own nightmare! Several faces and experiences come to mind, raising my heart rate just to think about them! Crazy may not be a politically correct term, but there’s really no better way to describe that employee that’s like the static-charged shrink wrap that you can’t get off your hand.

I’ve classified crazy employees into four categories:

  • The Manipulator
  • The Clueless
  • The Paranoid
  • The Drama Queen/King

Maybe you can come up with some additional categories based on your experience! Does the uber-creative type, the outstandingly nerdy, or the socially awkward employees require their own classification? What about the ones who are a combination of several categories? You can draw your own conclusions, but here’s a look at the four I identify:

The Manipulator is smart. He knows what he’s doing and approaches every interaction as a game of cat and mouse. Some manipulators have no ill motives, they just enjoy seeing what they can get away with and how far they can push you until you snap. They play everyone and are hard to catch because they’ve spun a web that is hard to untangle. ‘Terry’ was an expert storyteller and could weasel his way out of any situation. But when I tried to verify his story it quickly unraveled.

Solution: Resist making on-the-spot decisions or judgments. Check the facts, get different perspectives. Most importantly, make sure the Manipulator understands the expectations and consequences. Avoid getting into emotional arguments, which is the genius with manipulators. If possible, pair them up with someone you trust and who is manipulation-resistant. Stick to your guns and repeat your expectations in a matter-of-fact manner. Put the burden on them – often they want to make you the ‘bad guy’- involve them in solving their own problem and the issue may quickly disappear. 

The Clueless employee is simple. She’s the one you wonder about how she got hired in the first place, and even how she gets from her house to the office every day. You pull out all of your tricks to explain things in a way she can understand, but still there are mistakes in the books, or miscommunications to customers. It’s hard not to be sympathetic, but it’s exasperating to put so much effort into someone who clearly is out of their element. ‘Shirley’ had a great heart, really wanted to succeed, and made me want to help her with her sincerity, but the business was suffering because of her inability to perform at the lowest requirements of her job.

Solution: Spend some time trying to figure them out. If it’s a matter of learning style, then be creative. Ask them how they like to learn things. Ask them what their perspective is to see if they ‘get’ that they have a problem in learning & retaining knowledge/directions. For some it may be a simple solution, like allowing them to make step-by-step drawings of the process they’re supposed to follow. If all of your creative solutions don’t work and you don’t have another position to move them to for which they might be better suited, you may have to let them go. Always document the steps you’ve taken!

The Paranoid staff member thinks everyone is out to get them. He is the conspiracy theorist that sees hidden motives behind every action and looks for trouble under every rock. You spend a lot of time trying to convince him that the new computer software is not a means to get rid of him. You can almost bet that any announcement of a change in policy or procedure will result in a visit to your office by the paranoid employee. ‘Daniel’ was a trainer that would share his paranoid thoughts with new hire trainees about how he was sure we were trying to fire him. Well…he may have been right!

Solution: First, you need to determine if the paranoid behavior is getting in the way of their performance, or negatively impacting their coworkers. If it is, then you have to clearly communicate your expectations. Do what you can to assure them that you’re not out to get them and ask them what would help them feel more secure. They have to understand that you will hold them accountable, but that it isn’t personal and you don’t expect perfection. Consider a simple ‘contract’ to spell out what can be expected on both sides – just make sure there is no language that sounds like you’re guaranteeing them a job. This is a ‘rules of engagement’ document, not a job contract.

The Drama Queen/King seems to have crisis follow them day in and day out. Whether it’s a personal crisis (boyfriend/girlfriend troubles, financial setbacks, and transportation breakdowns are the top three), or work related challenges, this type of crazy employee can wear out a manager between tear-filled counseling sessions, documenting performance and attendance problems, and trying to find someone to cover their shift at the last minute. ‘Debbie’ had an eventful life, and sometimes the drama wasn’t created by her so it was hard to administer discipline without seeming heartless.

Solution: Separate work issues from personal issues. Offer sympathy and general advice, but don’t get roped into solving all of their problems for them. Do what makes sense for the business without enabling them to rely on you every time they get into a bind. Address the work issues and show them the impact to the business when they are absent, late, or disengaged because of outside drama. If they’re making drama in the workplace amongst co-worker or customers, clearly communicate your expectations and spell out the consequences if they can’t keep things under control. Let them know of benefits or resources that may help (employee assistance program, leave of absence, etc.).

You may have picked up on the common thread in the solutions for each type:

  • Clearly communicated expectations
  • Reasonable solutions, empathy & concern for the individual
  • Accountability, with burden on the employee
  • Documentation of what you’ve done and the results
  • Ultimately do what’s right for your business AND the employee