The Most Valuable Tools in a Manager's Toolbox
Realize the power of performance profiles and job descriptions to boost performance.

Imagine this scenario: Your organization just spent $5,000 in hiring and orientation costs for your new superintendent. Getting him up to speed over the next six months will cost another $45,000. Your return for this $50,000 investment will depend directly on his ability to succeed in his position. Are you confident he has a clear understanding of the success expected of him? A clear picture of success for any organizational position must begin with a well-written job description and performance profile.

A job description outlines the duties, expectations and required skills for a position. A performance profile, as described by Lou Adler in his book “Hire with your Head,” details “the six to eight performance objectives a person taking the job needs to do to be considered successful.” The performance profile is created after the job description. Both are powerful tools.

Every person in your organization has the ability to add to or detract from organizational success. The job description and performance profile offer a recipe for each individual’s successful contribution.

If your job descriptions have been sitting in a drawer unused and out of date, pull them out, dust them off and read on for how to leverage them for greater performance. Likewise, if your organization has not yet found the time to create job descriptions, continue reading for the six reasons to make them your next priority.

Job descriptions and performance profiles provide numerous benefits:

A Recipe for Success
There are few employees who sign up for a new position and are excited for ambiguous performance expectations. The trouble lies in a combined lack of alignment with the organizational objectives and lack of motivation. 

If 10 rowers are placed in a boat and told to row, they will all row at their own pace, in their own direction. The boat will travel nowhere. The rowers need to know their expected speed and direction in order to dedicate their best performance to the team. Without giving them the recipe for success, employees will quickly tire of wasting energy on fruitless direction, leaving the organization with lackluster performance and wasted salary.

Job descriptions and performance profiles should be used for selecting positions for candidates and to assess performance at regular intervals.

Greatly Reduced Lawsuit Risk
Jury Verdict Research reports that the current median dollar amount of an employment litigation settlement is more than $300,000. A job description lays out the essential functions of a job, which is needed to determine if a reasonable accommodation can be made for any disabled person currently on the job or applying for the job. The requirements listed in the job description are also used in determining reasonable accommodation for religious conflicts, such as days off for Sabbath or exemption from functions which violate religious practices or beliefs.

Firing an employee for a lack of performance without a clear outline of what successful performance looks like exposes the company to risk, particularly of wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuits. A case can easily be made for discrimination if an individual was fired for performance without ever being given a clear guideline of expected performance.

A Guide to Career Development
If an administrative staff member desires a supervisory position, the supervisory job description and performance profile provide her with the competencies she needs to acquire for supervisory success. You can bet that your most motivated employees will research what is needed to be eligible for promotion. Keep them motivated by offering that information.

Minimization of Pay-related Dissatisfaction
Have you ever seen someone question his pay in a company that didn’t explain pay differentials? If you haven’t, spare yourself this awkward experience. It is an embarrassing situation, and it discourages the person who is making less money, which leads to dissatisfaction and lowered motivation. Job descriptions and performance profiles outline compensation ranges for each position and the skills and responsibilities that lead to higher pay. While compensation levels don’t need to be broadcasted, they should be easily explainable.

The Keystones to Managing Performance and Rewards
Consider the story of a salesperson who was promoted to a supervisor position overseeing multiple business units. Her promotion did not include an up-to-date job description or team goals. Imagine her manager’s surprise when it turned out that the new supervisor had neither the flexibility to travel nor the coaching competency to develop others.

Because these expectations had not been established during the promotion process, the new supervisor went into the position unable to satisfy the demands of the job. Her manager, disappointed in her performance, ultimately terminated her. Thus, the company lost a once-valuable employee and incurred the costs that accompany such a loss, and the sales teams were left disappointed and demotivated. Situations such as these are avoidable when companies take the time to establish and communicate standard requirements and expectations for each job.

Marketing Materials for Hiring Top Performers
Imagine you are a talented and motivated project manager searching for a job. Look at the following job posting statements:

“Reviews daily and weekly reports to ensure accurate job costing and billing”
“Leverages real-time data, jobsite visits and team reporting to ensure project budget and schedule performance are on target”  

Which position would you rather take? Clearly the second of these is more interesting and offers a greater challenge, two qualities that top performers will be seeking. The performance profile should make statements of position success and double as a recruiting tool to grab the attention of top performers.

When composed and used properly, job descriptions and performance profiles are the most powerful documents available to maximize performance in an organization. If you don’t yet have these documents, work with leadership to develop them. If you do have them, make sure you have a plan to leverage them to their fullest extent. When you make your job expectations clear, current and measurable, you add to your bottom line through higher performance.