5 Questions You Need To Ask About Effective Position Descriptions

Developing effective talent assessment systems for clients often involves developing position descriptions.  Over the years I have developed well over a twelve-hundred position descriptions.  In each instance the process has involved interviewing employees and their supervisors about the knowledge, skills, abilities, and essential functions of their specific positions.

Why Develop New Descriptions?

Most of the reasons these descriptions were developed was to comply with a variety of federal laws, chief amongst them –the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Equal Pay Act (EPA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) concerning exempt (salaried) and non-exempt (hourly) positions.

Interviewing Employees?

In the process of interviewing these employees I identified where there were synergies and disconnects with the organization’s mission, vision, values, and objectives, where there were synergies between an employee’s natural talents and abilities, and where employees were performing functions outside their capabilities.

Many of these interviews yielded information that helped me to understand the motivations and interests of employees: why they worked in a particular organization, why they agreed (or not) with the goals and objectives of the organization, what they wanted to be able to achieve in their position and their career, and how they thought they could perform the job better or differently if only they were allowed.

Why Are Employees Engaged?

It was during these many interviews that I developed a great appreciation for employees’ interests in their particular organization.  It was also during these interviews that I understood that there needed to be a better fit between the organization’s overall goals and objectives, the functions of a position, and the people occupying those roles.  Owners, executives, managers, and supervisors certainly understood the functions that needed to be performed to ensure the organization’s goals were being achieved.

What became apparent, over time, was an understanding that some employees were simply not suited to the functions of the positions they were being asked to perform.  They were willing to perform those functions – it’s just that they were not performing some functions as well as the functions required – and business performance suffered.

Professional Assessments?

It was not until I had the opportunity to start working with Jay Niblick at Innermetrix some time ago that I began to understand how you could better identify the natural attributes or talents that are required for a position to be performed effectively – and how you could identify whether or not a person had those talents.

Normally when I perform a job analysis I solicit information from employees and their supervisors on the nature of the work, level of the work, the job requirements, job qualifications, working conditions, and identify how the nature of the work relates strategically to the accomplishment of certain company goals and objectives.  This process works well and involves employee completion of a questionnaire and interviews with employees and their supervisors.

What Jay’s research added to the job analysis is a process to aggregate those position tasks into job categories (big buckets) and to then assign decision attributes for each category utilizing the over 84 decision attributes available from Innermetrix’ Attributes IndexTM system.[1]  Once that is done a position-specific Attributes IndexTM profile is developed to measure an incumbent and/or an applicant’s match to the position profile.

Better Results?

The ability to identify primary and secondary position tasks and aggregate them into bigger buckets (e.g. management, sales, human resources management, finance, marketing, operations, customer service, leadership, etc.) gives leaders and managers the ability to identify which of these primary and secondary tasks align with the organization’s mission, vision, and goals; as well as providing managers the ability to understand better how to match a person’s talents and abilities better to that of the job.

As you consider implementing an effective talent assessment system for your business does it make sense to review your current position descriptions – and the employees in those positions? As you think this over, please consider taking our complimentary assessment to help you to decide.

[1] The Attributes IndexTM, as refined by Innermetrix, derives from the work of Dr. Robert Hartman.

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