July Voice 2018

Page 12

12 | July 2018

theVoice • rockfordchamber.com

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C O M M E R C E

Small Business Enterprise Create meaningful jobs— and get efficient, happy employees in return Part 2 The following is Part 2 of a two-part article dealing with creating and keeping happy employees. Part 1 can be found in the June issue of the Voice.

Key responsibilities The mainstay of a good job description is the definition of seven to nine work or key areas that describe the employees’ job responsibilities. A maximum of nine is generally easiest to deal with and, if you have more than nine points, you can usually put them together under fewer headings. Examples of key areas are “repeat sales to existing customers,” “maintenance of website,” “order handling,” “customer deliveries,” etc. In some cases, it can also be relevant to describe which projects the employees are to be involved in and which they are to lead. In addition to the main headings, you can add sub-headings that give a better picture of the actual daily tasks. A key area such as “maintenance of website” could include a list of what this actually entails, for example: produce monthly news; update product descriptions and client references; develop new web pages; collect image materials; and, maintain dialogue with programmer and graphic designer. It may sound a little elaborate to compile such a detailed job description, but if you have not made it clear to yourself what the employee should be focusing on, the chances are they will not be clear to your employee, either. When the list has been compiled, it can be very useful in coordination meetings, where you have to choose priorities. Most jobs often change content, and when the assignment descriptions have been defined in print, it is easier to make additions or changes. For the same reason it ought to be written at the bottom of all job descriptions that employees have a responsibility to adjust their job description so that it corresponds to reality.

Expected results — short and long term It is one to determine which work areas and projects an employee is involved in, it is another to define the results expected of the employee, both in the short and long term. It sounds easy, but it can actually be quite difficult. However, it is worth it when you succeed, because it gives the employees a clear sense of what it takes to become successful at the given job and the business gets a sense of what it takes to make employees worth their salaries. The expected short term result can be very simple. It may be, for example, to “takeover tasks from a former employee,” or to “prepare a plan for future projects,” or “gain expertise in the business’s IT systems.” All these results are related to the employee getting a head start in the business and therefore it is important that you, as the manager, tell the employee exactly how this is to be achieved. When considering the results more long term, most of the points relate to how the employers can create value for the business, and how they can earn the equivalent value of their salary for the business. For sales people for example, you can define results such as “Sales: 100 new customers” or “10 percent increase in gross margins.” For a marketing assistant it might instead be points such as “500 new subscriptions to the electronic newsletter” or for an accounting assistant or bookkeeper it could be “savings of $500 every month on expenses to external bookkeeping or accounting.” If you choose to define the results expected in the long term, these can be in less concrete, more visionary terms, which function more as mile stones for the company as a whole. It could be, for example, points such as “creating the most loyal customers in our industry” or “making the business known for its good

service and high quality.”

Management and limits The next decision that needs to be made relates to management and decision-making limits. These points are something most business owners have very clear views on, but often fail to communicate clearly to employees. Why not put it in writing in the job description: Define the boundaries of a job — dtermine the employees’ areas of responsibility and their decision-making limits, e.g., what they are authorized to determine on their own without asking their superior first. It can be decisions relating to what kind of prices and discounts should be offered to customers, or what purchases can be made within the budget for the fiscal year. It can also relate to how much time the employee should spend on different assignments, or how much freedom they have deciding how to perform an assignment, design a product, or formulate an external communication. In all businesses, decision-making skills are something you develop and get a feel for, over time. The advantage of formulating this in a job description is it allows you to discover the areas in which to give employees decision-making authority. This is useful to both you and the employee as it takes some weight off your shoulders and provides the employee with more independence and freedom. Besides defining an employee’s ability to make decisions, another tool in the daily business management is to make an employee responsible for making a report. By taking a look at the key areas of responsibility defined in the employee’s work description, you can find inspiration as to what kind of reports it would make sense to ask employee to compile. These reports may be weekly or monthly updates on “traffic on the website,” “completed customer visits and mailed offers,” or “time spent per project” (if you have time registration in the business). With a job description that requires reports like this, you send a clear signal of your expectations and that you will monitor progress.

Growing with the job The last, but key element in a good job description, is a short training plan that outlines what an employee needs to learn

to complete the given tasks. Depending on the employee’s existing skills, these can be small or large things, but regardless of the employee’s background and experience there will always be a need to introduce the employee on how things specifically operate in your business. Employee training does not have to be as expensive as it may sound, and it does not necessarily have to involve external course training. It may be as simple as buying a few books or finding relevant articles for the employee to read or colleague training, in which the new employee observes a colleague at work for a period of time. It sounds very informal, but it does demand that the training is planned, and that you follow up, so it does not just take place only when other employees find the time. In a smaller startup it is the entrepreneur who takes care of the training — but when the first employee has been trained, this person can be in charge of training future employees. You may also include professional growth opportunities in the job. What can the position lead to in the future? Is there a possibility of increased responsibility?

Meaningful jobs make sense A job description that contains all these points will take time to formulate because it demands careful consideration. If this is done the right way, you can achieve the most important thing: A job that the employee considers meaningful. For some, a meaningful job entails clearly defined areas of responsibility but for others it is important to have clearly defined expectations. For some employees, it is more important that the company has an exciting mission. Regardless of how perfect a job description is, it is nothing in comparison to a job that is actually fulfilling. Meaningful positions are best when they are shaped to suit the employee, not vice versa. Even the most wellphrased job description requires a sense of how to attract the most suitable employee for the job. When the right job and the right employee are matched, you have successfully brought your business one step further in its development and growth. This is Part 2 and is derived from the article, “Create Meaningful Jobs” published May 21, 2018. Part 1 was in the June 2018 issue of The Voice. ©GrowthWheel International Inc. and David Madié.

ABOUT THE SBDC The Illinois SBDC at the Rockford Chamber of Commerce offers services free of charge to aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Rockford area, both chamber members and non-members. As a partnership between the Rockford Chamber and the Illinois DCEO, it operates out of NIU EIGERlab, NIU-Rockford, 8500 E. State St., and maintains an office at the chamber’s downtown location. For questions, contact Bo Boger, SBDC director, at 815-316-4301.