Counter Intelligence – April 2011

What Do You Pay Them to Do?
I serve on the board of a small private school in my town and because of some previous non-profit experience I was asked to help with the task of creating a new Employee Manual. During one of our committee meetings, someone joked that, “when we finish with this, we get to tackle job descriptions.” To which, everyone else groaned.
Job Descriptions and their ugly step-sister, the Performance Appraisal, are two of the most vexsome tasks on any manager’s list of “why I get the big bucks.” Bosses who are otherwise prompt and responsible can find one reason after another for delaying action on either one. Quite often, the Job Description given a new hire is woefully outdated and has little to do with actual expectations, resulting in confusion. These days, when 2 people are doing the work of 5, you can’t afford to give your employees anything less than a crystal clear picture of your expectations.
So here’s an idea –
Take your Job Descriptions to the shredder and feed them between the whirling razor blades, one confusing sheet at a time.
Your employees are confused by them. They frustrate your managers. They may even be contributing to lower performance, burn-out and lousy customer service. Get rid of them. Pitch the entire lot and create in their place a Scope of Work Agreement that will add clarity and boost productivity.
The Scope of Work Agreement
Honor each employee’s individual contribution to the company’s objectives by describing how the successful execution of their particular assignment will add value. Show them where they fit in the organization’s mission. Relate their tasks to your goals; clearly show them the importance of their specific position in the long- and short-term strategic plan. Let them know, in very clear terms, how critical they are to success.
If every person on your payroll knows how their specific job adds to the company’s value, they will look at their work as something that has meaning and purpose. Instead of being the latest in a long line of workers who have been handed the same document, they will see themselves as an integral piece in your company’s mosaic.

Tell them what you are paying them to do.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Warehouse – This Scope of Work Agreement is between XYZ Widgets and Joe Jones. As a Warehouse Assistant, you are paid to make sure our products are stored safely and efficiently so that customers orders can be filled in a timely and profitable manner.

Manager – This Scope of Work Agreement is between XYZ Widgets and Jane Doe. As a Department Manager, you are paid to effectively coordinate the activities of your team so that each individual is making the greatest possible contribution to the team’s objectives.

Machine Operator – This Scope of Work Agreement is between XYZ Widgets and Frank Smith. As a Machine Operator, you are paid to safely and efficiently produce error-free widget parts so that customer satisfaction with our widgets will be the highest in the industry.

The important thing to notice is the “so that” line. When human beings have a “reason” for doing something, they do it better. [Google the phrase Attribution Theory]. Your current Job Descriptions most likely start with a list of bullet point rules and end with the infamous “other duties as assigned.” These aren’t reasons for motivation. No one is motivated to excellence by following a set of rules.

Follow the individual section with a boiler plate paragraph or two about your company culture and core values, with language stating that employees are expected to accomplish their work in a manner that supports the accepted standards.
In a twist on the old adage about a rising tide lifting all boats – when each of your employees understands what you are paying them to do, the sum of their individual efforts will increase the value of the whole.

Great companies are made up of great individuals.

Until next time –

Jim Seybert

PS – This post is the latest in the monthly series “Counter Intelligence” and you can get a free subscription HERE