How To Write A Good Job Description

A job description communicates your expectations to your employee, evaluates their professional performance, and sets the tone for their employment.  Failure to provide a job description leads to miscommunication and disorganization so it should be one of the first things you have your new employees sign.

How To Write A Job Description

Step One: Start With The Requirements

The first step is to make sure that you understand the job requirements that the employee will be performing.  If this position requires certain certificates or skills, make a list of all of these items.  Be sure to include them in the description.  Also, make a list of the preferred job qualifications. These additional qualifications separate the “meets basic expectations” candidates from the “highly desirable” candidates.

Step Two: Avoid Exaggeration

Exaggerating job description requirements puts you at risk and simultaneously loses you candidates.  You want to have a balance when you provide job descriptions. After all, you both advertise with these and have your selected candidate sign them.   So, you shouldn’t hire a candidate who does not meet your requirements.  Thus, making sure you don’t exaggerate your job description means that you can bring in good candidates.

Many companies do not follow this trend and it can be costly.  First, exaggerating job descriptions scares away many candidates.  So, your pool may be small.  Second, if you hire someone that does not meet your advertised “requirements” and other candidates get word of your decision, it hurts your reputation. Additionally, if candidates suspect you hired the under-qualified candidate for discriminatory reasons, you may have a lawsuit on your hands.  Even if you easily win such a dispute, it is still an expense that you can avoid.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that your rejected candidates will not know who you decided to hire.  In the age of social media, a 30-second linked-in search can quickly reveal your choices.

To avoid this, stick to your requirements and make them absolute.  Then, add your preferences to attract higher-end candidates.  This frees you up to pick and choose ideal traits of candidates and does not prevent qualified people from applying. It also gives you the freedom to select a less “qualified” candidate when our requirements are met, but you happen to have a trait in that candidate that is especially appealing.

Step Three: Include “Position Purpose” Statement

A position purpose statement communicates to the employee the “Why” behind what they do.  Employers often include a generic statement about the role of the job. However, a purpose statement gives value to the position. It allows the employee to understand the true importance of their role. It grows their knowledge and increases the likelihood that they will believe that their job makes a difference. Increasing this, in turn, increases the likelihood that your employee will be motivated to stay with your company.

Step Four: Include Physical Risks and Job Hazards

Many individuals will have a reason that they cannot perform a particular job or may need to request reasonable accommodation.  Being upfront about the risks associated with the job allows candidates to understand what you require.  It also enables them to be selective about the risks they are willing to take for their employment.

For example, you may have a construction position that requires exposure to elements and heavy physical labor.  You may have a lab position that requires exposure to toxic chemicals.  These risks should be communicated so that you do not fail to alert your candidates and employees fully. Many employees will be okay with these risks. However, failure to disclose these risks can be lawsuit risk. It can also be a reason that you end up having high turnover rates.  You may get candidates who are not aware of the risks and leave quickly once they discover the true nature of the job.

Step Five: Signature Lines, Dates, and Official Sign-Offs

This step is standard, but important.  As companies grow, it is common for documents to change an evolve. Often, these new documents will reflect important changes, but then managers will still use the old document.  The official job description should always have a sign-off from a person in leadership. This may be the HR department or the owner if the company is too small to have an HR person on staff.

Additionally, the job description should include the version number and the date that it was created.  Whenever a new job description is signed and put into the employee’s file, someone should do a quick check to make sure that it is a recent and accurate job description.

Write a value proposition

What is a value proposition?

A value proposition in HR is the key message to employees about why they should want to work for your company. It is a way of attracting the kind of talent that will make your company thrive. It is also the way to focus your strategy more and improve your business.  Remember: the  best employees solve problems and follow your strategic direction and to get them, you need to find them, and keep them.  The best way to do that?  Give your employees what you want.

To give you an example of a value proposition, I’ve pulled a snippet from Deloitte’s careers web page.  While they are by far not the only company with a good value proposition, they are one of my favorite.

Deloitte’s value proposition states:

We seek professionals who see differently, who find opportunity where others don’t, who look within themselves and know that with the right support and team they can impact the world.

This is an excellently targeted message with several key points:

  1. You as the employee make the impact: you are Deloitte
  2. Deloitte wants to hire you if you think differently

These key points are specially designed to attract a certain kind of person, a visionary who wants to make a difference.  Deloitte isn’t looking for people that are ready to accept status quo, they want “A+” players.

If you want good employees, you need to have the right value proposition

Small businesses that want to stand out in the job market must take the time to consider what their value proposition is to employees.  This is more than just the benefits your company offers: it’s the reason that working for your company matters.

When you write a value proposition, you must consider the following questions.
  1. What kinds of skills must your employees have to make your company better?
  2. What are the personality traits that you want in your employees?
  3. How can you attract these kinds of people to your company?
  4. Why would someone want to work for you?
  5. What does your ideal employee value the most in this world?
  6. How will you motivate your employees?
  7. What is your philosophy about employees and how you should treat them?
  8. What will you do if an employee doesn’t meet your expectations?
  9. What can you do to keep an employee like the kind that you are imagining?
  10. How do they spend their days/what is the best way to reach them?
Final words on your value proposition

In general, it is best to keep your value proposition between 2-4 sentences.  Short, sweet, and memorable. You want to communicate your value and convert the employee to applying for your organization, but you also don’t want employees to read a dissertation before applying.  You want to be remembered. Write for impact.

Additionally, you want your value proposition to work well with your overall mission. So make sure you don’t write a value proposition that simply cannot align with your company goals.

Policies and Procedures Writing Tips

Every employer should take the time to develop good policies and procedures for their business.  Consolidate these policies in the form of a document or handbook.  This provides employees with guidance for their work.  While you can purchase a handbook, you can also write your own. So,  follow these tips for developing a good policies and procedures for your company that will improve your business.

 

Think about limiting your liabilities.

First, consider ways in which you need to protect your business from negative behaviors and risks.  Prepare for the following risks:  turnover, bad customer service, employee mistakes, product returns, and customer or employee lawsuits.  Consider all the ways in which your business faces these risks.  Come up with a list of these risks.  Use this list to write policies that prevent problems before they occur.

Find ways to inspire good behaviours in your employees.

Make your policies and procedures reflect a positive work culture.  This should include good training, consistent messaging, and employee rewards systems.  You should always consider writing in rewards policies and find ways to inspire good behaviours with your policies and  procedures. These don’t have to be expensive rewards: something as simple as an extra day off a year or a company trip may be value needed to inspire employees with, rather than torment them.

Strive to be simplistic.

Make your policies and procedures clear and concise.  Take the time to consider the limitations that are necessary and recognize that your policies and procedures aren’t meant to be a great work of literature.  They are meant to be a communication tool.  Make your document a way to connect and  help your employees perform their work.

Start with a policy and procedure template

Don’t try to write everything from scratch. This will waste your time. Cut down on your time spent writing and start with a template.  This template provides a baseline for your overall document.

From there, you need to write your policies and procedures carefully.  Also, make sure you write policies that fit with your local state laws and don’t violate any legal requirements.   Carefully edit your document and make it match your business. For example, only includes official policies that directly relate to your operations.  For example, if you’re a service business, writing rules about how to serve food will not be beneficial to your employees.

So, there you have it:  tips for writing good policies and procedures.  If you find that you’d like some extra assistance figuring out what key risks your business faces , contact us . We will schedule a phone call with you for a free consultation and business health check-up.  Then you can better write your own document.  We’re happy to help and want to see you succeed.

Free time-management tools

The best workplaces are a mix of work and play. An employee who is utterly miserable will not perform quality work on a consistent basis and a workplace full of bean-bag chairs and smoothie machines may inhibit the actual work-day.

A good happy medium? A solid set of goals and benchmarks to make sure your business gets its business done, an accountability system to prevent “ghost employees,” and enough flexibility and freedom to allow employees to squeeze in enough fun to make their workplace worth returning to.

To set these goals and benchmarks, you’re going to want the right time management and productivity tools for the job. The Little Fish Team has used some of the following to increase their productivity, and wants to share them with you.

Todoist

Getting started on Todoist is simple with a bright and user-friendly interface. Lists can be made in the form of “Projects.” Projects can be shared between multiple people and added/edited as needed. You can set recurring tasks and synchronize due dates with a calendar. The price is right too: Free. Todoist also offers a full-feature version which allows commenting and more tasks per a project. Little Fish has gotten along well just operating on the free version and we’ve found our productivity increased by about 20% just using this program.

Slack

Slack is all about communication and sharing. It’s like a mini-social media for work. Share files, set meetings, and schedule phone calls. It’s a great place to one-stop your communication and the free version allows small teams to really connect. Be careful though: this great communication tool can easily turn into a time-waster if its not utilized properly.

Doodle Poll

Doodle is a must for the Little Fish Team. On large projects or when working with multiple client’s departments and team schedules, it is nearly impossible to get a meeting set up through email. The best free solution we’ve found has been Doodle’s schedule software, allowing our team to set a list of available meetings and then allow the rest of the attendees to narrow down their availability. The result? Meetings get scheduled in half the time and nobody says that they need a different schedule.

How to Hire (1/3): Developing Employee Roles

One of the most important parts of hiring an employee is defining the role that they will perform at your company.   No employer wants to hire a brand new employee only to find that they have an employee who doesn’t perform at the level they wanted.

As a small business owner, you can’t afford to hire a bad employee!

Below are 3 important steps that every employer needs to take before hiring a new employee.

Prepare A Job Description

Hopefully this is a first step that has you saying, “Yeah, duh.”  This means that you’re already ahead of other employers.  My client companies sometimes hire individuals and put them to work without a job description. In fact, one client had 300+ employees–and they failed to provide job descriptions.

As a result, Employees didn’t have a baseline for their work expectations. This effected every part of the business. Many employees didn’t perform required tasks. Others would often complain about having to perform certain tasks because it wasn’t ever communicated that this was part of their job.  During performance evaluations, employees and managers alike had no idea what goals they should set for the next year, so they would write in generic and unproductive goals that stagnated the business.

Having a job description that explains baselines for a job and still leaves ambiguity so that an employee can grow as your company grows is extremely important. Make sure you understand how to write a good job description.

Have Documented Processes

This is a step that most employers large and small overlook when bringing in a new employee. Because a job description only provides some baselines about the nature of work your employee will be performing, it is important to have an organized and clear documented process that will explain to your employee how to achieve each of their tasks.  This can take the form of a checklist, a booklet,  a spreadsheet, or even a neat training video.  These materials will allow your employee to understand and carry out the tasks that you’re outsourcing to them, all within the exact parameters of your preferences.

Explain Expectations And Boundaries

When my clients take the time to sit down and set clear expectations and boundaries with their employees–they change their work culture and increase their retention.  Take the time to sit down and explain verbally to every new employee the standards you expect.  This can include: the time of day you want your employee to show up to work, the standards of work quality you expect, the standards of customer service you expect, the acceptable way to schedule a conference room, and the time of day you expect people to leave.  The more specific and open you are about what you expect, the better your employee will be able to meet those needs.

Don’t forget to also explain the boundaries to your employee as well.  For example, if you hire a secretary who is always going above and beyond–is this something you want or do you want them to only perform certain tasks?  How much “above and beyond” is too much? When an accountant is your staff member, can they reach into the petty cash fund at any time or is there a particular process in place for that task?  These and many other boundaries are important to have in place so that you don’t have a miscommunication that leads to performance problems later on in the working relationship.

Closing Thoughts

In short, most new employees want to please their employer.  Their first month with your company will set the tone for the rest of their time with you.  These critical months will define whether or not they stay with you long-term.  Clearly defining roles  as a first step in the hiring process provides your employees with the knowledge they need to do well and have a satisfying work experience.