Why Strong Job Descriptions are a Must for Success

As a business consultant, teacher and writer in the kitchen and bath industry, I have several areas of business management that cause me a lot of frustration. Being the owner/manager of a small business is not an easy job. You are required to know a lot of things in a lot of different areas – and some of them may not be your favorite part of running your business.

You’re probably a darn good kitchen/bath designer. If you’re like many of us, you’re creative, and your favorite part of running your business is most likely working with clients to create “dream projects.”

Well, the fact is, if you want to be as successful as you can possibly be, you must become proficient in a number of other areas besides design. It’s essential that you also are:

  • A strong financial manager;
  • A strong human resource manager;
  • A strong marketing manager;
  • A strong sales manager.

There are a number of items under each one of these categories that demand your attention, and one of the most important things you will need to do as a kitchen and bath firm owner is to create accurate, well-thought-out job descriptions.

Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are a very important piece of the human resource puzzle. Early in my management career, I didn’t do either job descriptions or performance evaluations with my employees. Then I attended a two-week course on the subject at Stanford University. The class was an incredible eye-opener.

The course was a “train the trainer” program. If you can imagine…there were twelve 2"-thick binders that made up the learning material. We did a lot of role playing and they even videotaped our exercises to help in the critiquing of our efforts. These folks were serious about the subject!

I was the executive v.p. of a large plumbing wholesale business at the time, with some 300 employees. After several sessions of training other trainers, we implemented a company-wide job description and employee performance evaluation program for all of the employees. It was astounding to see the very positive results of that program – and I have been a big fan of doing job descriptions and performance evaluations ever since that day.

If you have three or more employees, please pay attention: Implementing a program on these two important areas is not expensive. It will involve a bit of time and effort, but the positive results will more than justify that effort.

See if you don’t agree with the following two statements, then we’ll get specific about what and how.

  • Every employee deserves to know what’s expected of them in the jobs that they are doing.
  • Every employee deserves to know how they are performing in that job.

Job descriptions are an essential part of hiring and managing your employees. Written summaries ensure your applicants and employees understand their roles and what they need to do to be held accountable.

Job descriptions also:

  • Help attract the right job candidates;
  • Describe the major areas of an employee’s job or position;
  • Serve as a major basis for outlining performance expectations, job training, job evaluation and career advancement;
  • Provide a reference point for compensation decisions and unfair hiring practices.

A job description should be practical, clear and accurate to effectively define your needs within the company.

Good job descriptions typically begin with a careful analysis of the important facts about a job such as:

  • Individual tasks involved;
  • The methods used to complete the tasks;
  • The purpose and responsibilities of the job;
  • The relationship of the job to other jobs within the organization;
  • Qualifications needed to perform the job.

Don’t be inflexible with your job descriptions. Jobs are subject to change for reasons of personal growth, organizational development and/or evolution of new technologies. A flexible job description encourages employees to grow their position and contribute over time to your overall business success.

Job descriptions typically include:

  • Job title;
  • Job objective or overall purpose statement;
  • Summary of the general nature and level of the job;
  • Description of the broad function and scope of the position;
  • List of duties or tasks performed that are critical to success;
  • Key functional and relational responsibilities in order of significance;
  • Description of the relationships and roles within the company, including supervisory positions, subordinating roles and other working relationships.

Additional items for job descriptions for recruiting situations should include:

  • Job specifications, standards to follow and requirements;
  • Job location – where the work is expected to be performed;
  • Equipment/technology to be used in the performance of the job;
  • Salary range;
  • Experience required;
  • Education required;
  • Prepared by, approved by and date the job description was written.

Employee Buy In

So, what’s the best way to get employee cooperation when starting a job description program? To start with, top management must support the program and that support must be visible. Key executives must clearly communicate the need for a job description program and what they expect from managers and supervisors.

The owner/manager should issue a policy statement to everyone who will be involved. Such communication should include these key elements:

  • The primary reasons for establishing the program;
  • The individual or group who will be responsible for its development;
  • Who will be covered by the program;
  • The procedure for reviewing the various drafts of the job descriptions;
  • Meetings with the manager to answer questions, uncover conflicts, clarify goals and evaluate suggestions from participants.

Collecting Information

The next step in the process would be how you collect information for the job descriptions. An easy way to gather information is to ask each employee to keep a written analysis of each day’s activities for one month. They can use a legal pad or computer to help them document each and every undertaking. After a month, they should have covered every activity involved with the job. This information should then be consolidated and prioritized. This way each employee is, in effect, writing the basis for their own job description.

In addition to this, the employee’s immediate supervisor should spend time analyzing the job. Then break down all of the activities into four main areas:

  • Title, reporting responsibility, accountability and location;
  • Essential tasks, duties and responsibilities: What is being performed, how is it performed and what its purpose is;
  • What skills, knowledge and individual abilities are required of the job holder to provide an acceptable level of performance;
  • The working conditions, especially if they are unusual. This takes into account the physical surrounding of the job such as noise, dirt or hazards. It can also mean the social atmosphere, which indicates the degree of isolation from, or involvement with, other people.

Since we don’t have the space here to share specific job descriptions or a job analysis worksheet that can be used in helping you develop job descriptions, I would be happy to share these with you privately. Just email me at darlingtonconsulting@gmail.com and I’ll send them along to you.

Another valuable resource you may find useful would be the business management book I wrote for the National Kitchen & Bath Association, entitled Kitchen and Bath Business Management. The book contains a number of pages dedicated to the topics of job descriptions and performance evaluations. The book is one of the nine professional books in the association’s educational library, and can be purchased from the NKBA.

In my next article, I’ll cover the companion topic to job descriptions…and that is Job Performance Evaluations. These two go hand-in-hand, and I guarantee that if you implement them, your employees and your company will be much better for having done it!