Job descriptions may initially seem like unnecessary things, but if you aren’t using them you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
Let me tell you a story.
When I was still working as the front team leader for my dad’s dental practice, we had a seemingly poor performing employee. We’ll call her Lily.
Lily was the sort of person who you like, as a person. Even though she was a little introverted, she had a friendly personality (particularly if you really got to know her). However, in spite of her friendliness, she never seemed to be focused on important tasks.
It was mind-blowing how many times she had to be told to do something. Not only did we have to tell her what to do, but I found that we were constantly repeating how to do something.Back then I was still in school, and at the time I was in the middle of a managerial course. One night in class I had a major ‘aha!’ moment.
The professor told us about a fascinating business theory regarding management. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Theory X and Theory Y by Douglas McGregor
Simply put, Theory X refers to a manager who views employees as lazy, non-ambitious, shying away from responsibilities, and choosing to be individually-goal oriented. The Theory X manager believes that they need to have a “hands-on approach” and monitor every detail and action of an employee.
Whereas a Theory Y manager views employees as motivated, enjoying their work, and setting goals which will help the company improve as a whole. Theory Y managers believe that employees thrive on challenges and want to better their performance.
So an employer might be falling victim to Theory X mindsets, who views the employee as a “bad” employee—when the reality is that that the employee isn’t clear on expectations nor set up for success.
My professor said it best, “When things aren’t going right, you should first, blame the system not the employee.”
My ‘Aha!’ Moment
It was then that it occurred to me that we had never clarified our expectations. Our system of getting people to know what they were supposed to be doing was what many people call “on the job training”.
Some people are natural go-getters, who know what to do and when to do it without someone laying it all out for them.
But the truth is, a lot of people just aren’t that way. And unless you hired a mind reader, how do you expect your employee to know exactly what you want them to do?
If you said, “Well, I’ve told them before.” Then let’s do a quick exercise.
Without scrolling up, what was the first thing I said about job descriptions in this blog post? I bet you forgot. And that was only like 2 minutes ago.
Your employees have a lot going on—between personal life and work. That’s a lot of information being processed. Distractions, interruptions, and new information are constant. And if you’ve spent even an hour working in a dental office then you know the kind of chaos that can ensue. So there’s a really good chance your employee is going to forget a few things.
And they’re even more likely to forget if they personally struggle with prioritizing, and systemizing.
(Then what could you use that would clarify your expectations, and help your employees stay focused on what is really important?)
The Miracle of Job Descriptions
A job description is one way that you provide your employees with the clarification they need. It’s how you help them meet your expectations, and keep them focused on what they should be focused on.
Job descriptions save your employee from unnecessary stress, headaches, and overwhelm.
And it gets better, because you get the same benefits.
Imagine putting yourself in their shoes: you think you’re doing great, but it’s apparent that whatever you’ve been doing isn’t good enough for the boss.
If you felt like you were getting whip-lash from your boss telling you to do one thing, only to find that he’s mad about something else he actually thought you should be doing—I bet you’d start to feel like you can’t do anything right and that there’s just no pleasing the boss.
How do you think that that affects morale, engagement, or volunteering for responsibilities? Or even, production and office efficiency?
I don’t have to tell you that the answer isn’t pretty.
The good news is that it’s never too late to implement job descriptions.
Change The Way You Communicate Your Expectations
From now on, you are going to outline in writing what a person is responsible for in your office. By having your employees’ responsibilities in writing, they can refer to it, make necessary systems, and ensure that they are doing what is expected of them.
When you write your job descriptions you may be surprised by what’s on an employee’s plate, and you may need to do some prioritization yourself.
Remember, you didn’t hire mind readers and the more effectively that you can communicate your expectations, the better your employee will be able to perform.
As for Lily, when I gave her her first official job description and explained what I expected from her she transformed. She was no longer the seemingly poor employee, and became a really hard-working team member.
I changed the system, and I got a changed employee.
If you want to learn what I put in our job descriptions, and how you should create yours then get on my course list! In my course, I will be sharing all the templates and giving you the help you need to effectively leverage your team.