Performance Improvement Job Descriptions

Jul 31, 2009

Performance Improvement - Job Descriptions

A well-considered job description is an area that, too often, is not given the attention it deserves. Since a company’s performance is the sum of each employee’s performance it would make sense to hire individuals who hold the skills to succeed at their job, and therefore the success of the company as a whole. Needs of a company change over time and it is wise to consider hiring those with the ability to learn new skills, or those who have learned other skills in prior jobs. Yet many companies shy away from job descriptions without understanding the impact this has on morale, customer satisfaction and profitability.

The effort placed in defining a particular job description can be the difference between a company that excels and one that trails the competition. Hiring the right person requires an owner or manager to identify the specific skills and knowledge needed for each job. It also helps them determine the right interview questions to ask, identify the best résumés and better evaluate the candidates. Here are several guidelines to assist you in this process.

For improved performance


Every company should have clear goals and an understanding of how each job supports the needs of the company. Corporate goals should be divided into functional goals, functional goals divided into individuals goals. With this structure an employee’s goals will support the higher corporate objectives. Growth oriented organizations also should consider their future needs.

The employee you are looking to hire should have the necessary skills and the ability to grow with the company. This requires that you understand current requirements and hold a vision of what skills are needed to support future plans. If you don’t know what skills they need, how will they know?

You have the choice of hiring to meet future needs or hiring to meet current needs. If you hire to meet current needs there should be a plan to train the employee for future responsibilities. Hire for current ability while considering their potential.

Look to improve the level of skills in your business with each hire. This goes back to the idea of having a keen understanding of company needs and a plan for fulfilling that future vision.

Don’t hire cheap. You will pay the price many times over.

If a new employee is unsure of what you expect of them, what can you expect of them? Provide clear goals and periodic reviews. They want to know how they are doing. They don’t like surprises any more than you do. They especially don’t appreciate a 12 month review where they learn they’ve been underperforming. Keep communicating and advise them frequently.

If you hear “who’s responsibility is this?” too frequently it is probably time to take another look at those descriptions.

Perhaps you are forced to hire a temp because the staff isn't able to get the job done. You may be able to avoid these excess costs. First look at the performance standards for the staff. Are you about to hire a temp because of poor prior hires? Would you be able to avoid hiring a temp if the staff was better trained (in Excel, Word, business software, company policies. Does the staff have a clear understanding of their individual goals and have the tools to perform their job?

Underutilized and poorly implemented software solutions cause excess hiring. Underutilized and poorly trained employees cause excess hiring. Use your resources and dollars wisely.

Likewise, a lack of policies and procedures leads to confusion. Certain individuals will take advantage of this situation, leading to poor morale on the part of others.

By setting clear responsibilities you are able to measure performance.

A company looked to replace the warehouse manager. It wasn’t clearly defined why they were upset with his performance or what they expected of a new manager, just a series of  comments on perceived failures, a “what he didn’t do” at every opportunity. A finger pointing environment. Employees wondered when the finger would point to them and morale suffered. I facilitated a meeting to help the owners define their areas of concern which were found to be centered on lack of visibility and accountability. Further discussion found that they were upset by late customer deliveries, lack of reporting, lack of control and lack of communication with customer service. Listing each item I then asked how they planned to address the situation. They responded, “We need to fire him and hire someone better.” They weren’t able to define “better”. Up to this point there was no mention of why the situation was allowed to go on for over 2 years. Almost knowing the answer I asked for a copy of the job description and of course, there was none. The warehouse manager’s objectives were changing on a weekly basis, there was no guideline, no clear performance standards.

By sitting with them to create a job description and performance expectations they were able to set objectives for the current manager and hold him to these targets. Eventually he failed, he was a poor hire from day one. But with a detailed job description in hand, one that addressed the necessary skills for today and for planned future growth, they were able to hire a competent manager. The new manager, now with clear goals, was able to significantly improve warehouse performance, reduce overtime, improve on-time performance and also generate weekly management reports that provided the desired visibility. In addition, the new manager identified internal obstacles to warehouse performance caused by other departments. His higher level of involvement led to eventual improvement throughout the organization. The finger pointing ended, morale improved, performance improved as each job was better defined.

Remember, individual performance affects corporate performance. If job descriptions are not your area of expertise it’s time to call up the reserves. An experienced business advisor will help you focus your goals, create effective job descriptions, and help you hire the "right" employee with the "right" skills. This is far better than filling the void with additional headcount with the same uncertain goals while facing the costs associated with continual low performance.

B2B CFO® partners are experienced in building infrastructures that meet a company’s needs and increase profits. Give me a call (at 631.379.6742) for a no cost/no obligation business analysis. It’s a call worth making.


A collection of books from B2B CFO® to help any business succeed. Read the first chapter from books, including the Wall Street Journal’s book, for free.