Why Job Descriptions Don’t Work for New Hires
The reason job descriptions don’t work for new hires is simple! Once management reviews a job description with the new hire, that’s likely the last time the new employee will see it. Therefore, most of the tasks listed on the job description will be forgotten.
Statistically, after only one hour, a person forgets half of what they have read. And, after 24 hours, a person forgets two-thirds of previously learned information. Consequently, a new hire will need to receive verbal instructions from management until they can commit their job to memory. Using that method, it can take months to years to train new hires. There’s a remedy for that!
Something else is needed to prompt new hires and even long-time employees to accomplish certain detailed procedures or sporadic tasks!
The Forgetting Curve by Hermann Ebbinghaus proves Job Descriptions alone don’t work.
Consider Job Descriptions as a System
When reviewing a detailed job description (i.e. for a production manager), you will notice that many of the tasks listed on the job description are vague. Example: Evaluate and supervise the performance of production personnel, i.e. quality inspectors, workers etc. Now that’s a mouthful, when you really think about it!
If you analyze the verbiage in our example above, the task of evaluating and supervising could be a full-time job for a new hire.
Consider the following when breaking-down what this job description describes:
- How do you “EVALUATE” employees/workers? Is there a system for doing evaluations?
- How do you “SUPERVISE” employees/workers? Is there a system for supervising? (i.e. policies for WHAT TO DO and WHAT NOT TO DO, when “supervising”)
To perform ANY important task, consistently, a SYSTEM should be in place.
Imagine telling two people to clean-up a tool room. One person might stack the tools in a neat pile, sweep the floor and consider the job done. The other person may organize the tools in labeled designated locations, sweep AND mop the floors, etc.
As you can see, “clean” to one person is NOT “clean” to another person. Moreover, “supervising,” to one person, can be far different from “supervising,” to someone else.
Therefore, if management wants a task performed a certain way, they should describe it in a written, step-by-step process, leaving nothing to chance.
Consider each step in a task as a “prompt” that ensures correct performance, just as management envisions. Once you have mapped the process of each task listed on a job description, you have a system for the new hire’s position. As a result, if it’s a production manager position, you might call it, your Production Manager System.
Job Descriptions | A Mere Static Document
Job descriptions are “static” paper documents that are non-interactive. In other words, they don’t prompt for any action, other than vaguely describing a task. In fact, they are at best an overview of a new hire’s position. Furthermore, most job descriptions are not kept current and, sadly, management usually files the out-of-date copy back in an undefined location until the next new hire arrives.
For this reason, we at Ebiz Products suggest turning a job description into a Daily Routine Checklist, that can include intranet links to procedures and policies. This ensures exceptional performance, by addressing every “prompt” and every “call to action” of a new hire’s position.
In conclusion, by simply checking a checkbox as completed, or striking through a prompt’s verbiage (indicating the prompt doesn’t apply), a new hire’s success is ensured. Moreover, with a Daily Routine System in place, management and others can do their own jobs with fewer interruptions to respond to questions.
Did I mention? Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.