Job Descriptions, the good, bad and the ugly
The job description will come in all shapes and sizes and make no mistake, the job description will set the culture of the company. What reminded me of this was that I was asked to review a Head of HR job description which was created by some HR Pro/Am the other day and a few of the bullets points read as follows:
- Ability to add and subtract two digit numbers and to multiply and divide with 10′s and 100′s.
- Shows respect and sensitivity for cultural differences; educates others on the value of diversity; promotes a harassment-free environment; Builds a diverse workforce.
Seriously? For an HR position??? Two thoughts. . .
- You can’t make this shit up.
- How do you interview for these skillsets without sounding like a dumbass?
- “What is 23 plus 42?”
- “Can you as an HR professional give me an example of a time where you showed cultural sensitivity in the workplace?”
If I were being “tested / interviewed” for these skill sets, I would be asking myself “WTF is this?” I either have my work cut out for me, or I am working with a dumbass. Either way, I am out. This is HR promoting HR as a pain in the ass. This is HR promoting itself as the pain in the “dumb” ass.
When I think of a job description, I think two general categories. The job description that you would post on a job board when you are looking to hire a candidate. The other is the job description you would have in the company file. The job descriptions that advertise positions are usually shorter than those in the file which usually include much more detail. The job description in the file is used as a reference and pulled out in a few situations: Assessing skill sets against compensation bands OR when a couple of managers pour over each bullet trying to figure out if an employee is fulfilling the job requirements or not. In other words they are trying to figure out if they can fire the employee.
I have a hard time imagining a situation where someone would exclaim:
“Johnny can add two digit numbers, check the job description on file, we may need to give him a raise!”
In my opinion, the bullet points listed at the beginning of the post are a little too specific. I think Nike got it right with this job description:
Just Do it
Another version could read something like this:
I was handed a job description filled with a lot of minutia, bullets points I thought should be ripped out of the document. All total, there were 5 bullets under the Benefits section including these condensed snippets:
- Maintains and controls under lock and key, all confidential employee benefit files.
- Assists employees about benefits during decision-making process.
OMG. . .There were also sections with minutia on Strategic HR, Recruiting, Employee Relations, etc. . . . Ok, you get the point. I won’t bore you anymore.
Yes, it might be easier to fire an employee when you have a checklist of details you can compare behavior to. “Johnny is doing X, but he isn’t doing Y or Z. He isn’t doing this one either. Let him go.”
I believe that with this managerial mentality also comes a defensive employee mentality that can fire right back: “Hey, you wanted me to add 2 digit numbers, you didn’t say anything about subtracting two digit numbers. That isn’t part of my job description.”
My suggestion for the Benefits section was the simply the following: “Responsible for all facets of the benefits program.” We took a 2-½ page job description down to less than 1 page. This may seem vague to some, but everyone wants to be treated with respect. Treat employees like adults, you can expect adult behavior. (you may not get it, but you set the expectation for it). Treat employees like children, you will get child like behavior. Consequently, the company culture follows.
I get that this may may not be right for every company. I also get that we need to train up on skill sets specific to the company or the industry. What I want to avoid is getting so specific on what should be “a given” for any individual position. When we look to hire, if someone needs more direction than “just do it”, they may not be the right person for the job.
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball.”