Frustrated Managers: Focus On Jobs Before People

If you’ve managed people for just a little while, you’ve probably considered hiring consultants to help improve the productivity, morale, and direction of your workforce. The consultants get started by interviewing and assessing people. They ask questions like, “How well is this employee suited for the job? How high—or low—is their performance?”

When the assessment period is over, the consultants will suggest team-building, training, and coaching to increase the employees’ suitability. The consultants are paid and they leave. After a while, the same unproductive behaviors creep back into your employees' workflow and it’s business as usual. Leaders and managers blame their employees and everyone blames the consultants

I hear versions of this story from frustrated executives when we start talking about my consulting services. I get it. Working to resolve personnel issues is often cited as every manager's worst nightmare. Here’s why… your boss still needs results that impact their upstream outcomes. And while your boss may have empathy and may even offer to help, their commitments are not tied to your struggles to manage people issues.

Assessing Jobs Before People

Our approach at Touchbase Services is different. We start addressing productivity and disengagement issues by interviewing the job. We start with simple, but rarely asked questions like, “What does the job really do for the company? How does the job contribute to the bottom line? What are the traits needed by a person to do well in this job?”

Jobs in a company can seem like a rental house. People move in, they bring their stuff and live there a while, then they move out. Over time, the stuff they leave behind adds-up and the house begins to looks very different than its original plan. Or, the neighborhood changes requiring occasional updates to the house. In a similar way, employees move-in to jobs, add their stuff, then move on. Companies must often change their strategies in order to compete in the marketplace but the jobs rarely received the same treatment. The average employee stays in a job about 2 years. It’s the job itself that remains a permanent fixture on the organizational chart. So, it makes sense to start by assessing the position and specifically define how it creates value for the company.

Three Simple Changes Leverage Big Improvements

Research by the Gallup organization clearly shows that there are 3 factors often neglected by managers;

  1. Lack of manager’s involvement in setting employee’s priorities,

  2. Lack of employee accountability,

  3. Managers who are not accessible and approachable.

When these factors are addressed the increase in productivity is dramatic. According to Gallup, manager involvement with priority setting increases productivity by 34%. Accountability processes create increases of 22%, and being accessible and approachable adds 29%. These pivotal changes are impossible to make without first clarifying the positions that are affected.

At Touchbase Services, we have found that the quickest and most effective way to clarify a job is to use what we call Job Benchmarking. This patented process starts with a Discovery Session where the real requirements of a job are determined by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). This facilitated discussion results in solid, fact-based performance statistics that clearly describe the actual, intended function of the job and provide standards that matter. From there, we can quickly determine the actual function of the job, how it contributes to the company, and identify the traits needed by a person to be successful in their job.

The second part of Job Benchmarking involves assessing the current employee in the position and the traits they bring to it. These are not skills, but natural behaviors like urgency, stability, or influence. We compare the traits they bring to the traits needed. This gap analysis becomes the basis for a development plan. For positions that are open, we use Job Benchmarking to recommend candidates who are most likely to succeed in the position.

For example, we were asked to define the role of Sr Vice President of Business Development at a commercial bank in San Diego. A key feature of this role was to manage the internal loan approval process. However, this was the same directive for the Sr Account Managers. This overlap of duties had led to confusion and lost business because multiple people were attempting to own the same processes and outcomes. These snafus were reinforced by a compensation plan that rewarded siloed ownership of information leading to personal resentment between people who were originally intended to work together. This is a common facet of broken processes that are shared among multiple roles and departments. Job Benchmarking provided clarity to these roles and led to smoother transactions and more deals.

Our Job Benchmarking process makes a real, measurable difference in the productivity of employees—and assists in producing higher accuracy in fitting candidates to jobs. Instead of focusing on people and going through what seems like the endless loop of coaching to eventually fit a job, our clients have a solid understanding of the actual job and its priorities —and a better chance of accurately choosing a person with the traits and experience to perform that job.

*As reported by Marco Nink, a Senior Practice Expert at Gallup:

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Touchbase Services

9362 Teddy Lane, Suite 206

Lone Tree, CO 80124

Tel: 720-924-1144