Re: ON Topic - Job Descriptions
- From: "Half-nutz" <3t3d@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: 3 Feb 2007 17:41:06 -0800
On Feb 3, 2:48 pm, Kirk Gordon <k...@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
I'm working on putting together some complete and precise
descriptions of the various jobs in the shop I work for.
Those in the group who are familiar with my rantings have already
guessed that this is a probably a very long post. They're right.
Brevity isn't one of my skills. I hope that what I've written will be
of interest; but, if you don't have the time or patience for a lot of
reading, please scroll down to the "Questions" near the end. That's the
part I need help with; and I'll appreciate any contributions or suggestions.
There are two reasons for writing these job descriptions:
One, its important to convey clear expectations to every person at
every position in the company. That allows each person to measure
his/her performance against a well understood set of standards. And, it
lets managers evaluate and review performance farily and accurately.
That means better understanding, better response to jobs done well (or
not), and better, more fair results when awarding pay raises and
promotions (or not).
The second reason is our recruiting effort. We need good people at
several key positions, and we want to present an accurate and attractive
picture of the jobs and company to prospective employees. Typical job
descriptions, job ads, etc., always look like just lists of skills, and
seem to say that if you can't check off all of the boxes on the list,
then we don't want to talk to you. The result is to chase people away
just because the job discription sounds more like a demand than an
invitation or an opportunity.
So, the descriptions I'm writing actually have two parts. One, for
communication and management purposes, will be a set of things that each
person, depending on position, should expect to accomplish on a typical
day, in a typical week, during the course of a typical project, or
whatever. Skills and experience will be important, of course, since
they're a key part of what it takes to get things accomplished. But
what we really want to communicate and measure is about results -
accomplishments - in real functional terms. People are different. We
each approach a problem or challenge in a different way. What matters
isn't whether one person would mill a surface and the other would grind
it. What we really care about is which way is best, in time, money, and
every other way. We want each person in the shop to think in those same
terms. And we want to be able to talk in those terms when we're making
plans, reviewing past results, or trying to put the right person in each
of the shop's positions. Results and accomplishments. Those are vital.
This first version of the job description is also intended to help
us select and hire the best people. That's not always easy, based on
just resume's and interviews. A person with years of training and
decades of experience might be one of those who looks great on paper,
but only does enough to get by, and never really worries about whether a
job is done as well as possible. Someone else, with three years of OJT
in a really good environment, might be detail oriented, eager to learn
new stuff, proud of doing things right the first time, and might
actually be a hundred times better on a real workday than the guy with
the perfect resume'. We want to measure the RIGHT things, and hire
people who'll surprise us pleasantly, rather than the other way.
The second version of the description will be aimed at prospective
new hires, and will be an attempt to show them the reasons why working
for us would be a good idea. It's a sales pitch, to put it bluntly.
But we want it to be an accurate, useful pitch, rather than something
slick or unrealistic.
Usually, when people read job ads, talk with a recruiter, or sit
down for an interview, the main topic is always about skills and
experience. "Can you program a Fanuc 18I? Did your last position
include taking jobs from print to finished part on your own? How many
people did you supervise when you worked at X company, and what kind of
products did that company make?" And the applicant answers the
questions, usually in a positive way if he or she wants the job. And
then the applicant asks about wages, benefits, work hours and overtime.
And the employer answers with numbers that he hopes will be satisfactory.
But none of that discussion has anything to do with what either
person really needs to know! If they knew how to communicate
effectively, and if they were both brutally honest, the discussion
between employer and applicant would be much more about RESULTS.
"Yes," says the applicant, "I'm really good at a whole list of
stuff. But what do you want me to DO? And what's in it for me if I can
actually get it done?"
"These are our problems and needs," the employer would say. "If
you can solve them, then that would have X impact on the overall success
of the company. The value of that would be X dollars per year,
initially; and would lead to additional responsibility in these other
related areas, which would be worth additional money and incentives if
you can keep moving us forward in the ways that matter most."
"But what matters most will change over time," says the applicant.
"Exactly," says the employer. "That's why we'll want you to grow
and develop along with us, and to prepare us, and yourself, to hit the
moving targets of the future."
"What kinds of targets are you talking about?" the applicant asks.
"Well," says the employer, "here's our vision and strategy for the
next five years. Tell me if you see yourself playing a part in ..."
In my mind, THAT's the way a job interview should happen. People
who don't have the right skills can be weeded out with tests, trial
periods, or even by just a couple phone calls to references from the
resume'. Any fool in the HR department can do that. But once the skill
set is confirmed, then the reality of the job becomes paramount. What
needs to be DONE? Can this person really DO it? Does he or she really
WANT to do this, or is there some other use of his/her skills that would
be more fun or satisfying to this individual, and that would make it a
mistake for them to work here.
Programming and setting up machines isn't a job. It's just one of
the activities that helps do the REAL job of shipping good parts and
making profits. THAT'S what the employer wants done.
There are people all over the world who program and set up
machines, and think that's what they get paid for. And then they get
bored to death, because right after they program and set up one job,
they have to start on another, and then another, and another. That's
their job, right? What else are they going to do?
And it never ends, and it never changes, and after you've done some
really tough and interesting jobs, they stop being tough and
interesting. They're either just more of the same, or they're so tough
and interesting that they're impossible, and nobody could enjoy them or
do them well. And what difference does it really make, anyway? You get
to keep your job? You get a 2.8% pay raise if the sales department did
ITS job and the company grew a little last year? The boss starts
spending more time on his boat, while you "grow" into a position of
being indispensible, and find yourself working 65 hours a week and
taking phone calls at home from the idiots on third shift when you
really ought to be sleeping? That's no way for skilled people to spend
Really good people want to know WHY they're doing something, and
what difference it will make, for them, and for the company, today AND
tomorrow. They don't want to spend their lives programming and setting
up machines. They want to do something with a point to it. Setting up
machines is just one part of what it takes to accomplish things much
bigger, and much more important. Good people DON'T work for the
employer. They work for themselves - for their own pride, and their own
satisfaction, and even for control over their own paychecks, no matter
whose name is on the front of the building. And THAT'S the stuff they
really need to talk about when considering a new job. What will I
really do for a living? How will I use my skills to accomplish
something that matters? Does a prospective employer understand that I
DON'T want to work for them like a serf, but to work for myself, with
them, so we can both make money and be happy?
So, the second job description I need to put together is one for
prospective employees to read, so they can actually know where we're
going, and why, and how we expect skilled people to use their skills to
help us get there. It's "the vision thing"; but not some buzzword
laden, pie-in-the-sky vision that they teach in business schools. It's
about the kind of vision that make turning an allen wrench into a
purposful, meaningful, important part of your day, rather than just
something you do with your fingers while your brain is out to lunch.
It's about knowing, for real, all the time, that the skills you've spent
a lifetime to learn are IMPORTANT. They HAVE to be, unless you feel
like you've wasted your life. But the important part is what you can
accomplish with your skills, not whether you use them like a robot on
things you're not proud of, or that make you wish you'd stayed in
college and become a dental hygeinist like your sister-in-law.
And why would one company give you more of the right attitude and
environment than another? What's special about the company I work for
that your skill and effort could really make a difference? THAT'S what
you'd want to know if you were to think about coming to work with us.
And that's what I need to write.
So, I have some questions for members of the group.
1. If someone on the street - someone you didn't know, and who
might not have any knowledge about the metal working industry - were to
ask you what you do for a living, what would your automatic, instant,
natural response be? Do you call yourself a machinist? An engineer? A
manufacturing technician? Or do you say that you work for a company
that makes pistons and heart valves and welding nozzles, and you spend
most of your time with machines, and they're controled by computers, and
there's a lot of math involved, and you sometimes get dirty... and you
don't really know a one-word way to describe yourself?
2. If someone who did understand the metalworking game asked you
about your job or position, what would you LIKE to say? Does
"machinist" convey the full extent of your skill and knowledge, or is
that too limiting. What about "CNC programmer" or "CNC setup person"?
Does "engineer" seem wrong, because you don't have a degree or a
license? Does "manufacturing technician" seem too wordy, or
pretentious, or nebulous? What would you LIKE to be called, by people
who know what the words mean. What word or phrase would you respond to
with pride or interest if I used it to refer to you in a job description?
3. If I told you that I'm offering a job in a really clean shop,
what would come to your mind? Do you think in terms of a coffee pot
that's not quite cruddy enough to be toxic, or do you envision sparkling
clean floors and machines, and people wearing Polo shirts that don't
have spots and stains all over them? If I were tell you that we keep a
Zeiss CMM right on the manufacturing floor with all the metalcutting
machines, would that grab your attention? Or did you already get the
idea without needing that kind of detail?
4. If I said that your immediate boss, the person you'd report to
every day, is skilled and experienced enough to do your job if he had
to, would that impress you, or would it raise a red flag? Do you like
working for people who really understand what you do? Or would you be
happier if they were just good at managing things, and stayed the hell
out of your way while you work on the machines? Or maybe some of both?
What's your preference?
5. If I were your fairy godmother, and I could wave my magic wand
and make any bad part of your current job disappear forever, what would
you ask me to do? What are the three things that need to go away in
order for your working life to be really, substantially better? Don't
limit your answers to just "realistic" things like "make the vertical
quit leaking coolant". Think big picture, deep-in-your-guts kind of
stuff that would matter a lot, every day, and really make your life
better. It's a MAGIC wand, after all. You might be amazed by what I
can do with it.
6. If I could wave my wand and give you three positive things to
make your job better, or your company a better place to work, what would
those three things be? Be careful what you wish for. More money might
be just what you need, or it might just make you overpaid, and screw up
your whole life with stress and insecurity. Think big picture again,
and things that would really make all those years of learning and
perfecting your skills seem good and worthwhile. Maybe some way that
you could be more productive, or use your skills more fully, so you
could have more money and NOT be overpaid. Maybe something personal,
and not measured in dollars. Think hard. This is important to you.
7. If you could finish every task by taking the results into the
front office, setting them on the owner's desk, and asking for
recognition or criticism, would you do it? Or, to put that question
into more realistic terms: If you knew that the owner of the company,
the customers, the plant manager, and everybody else that mattered,
would notice what you do, would recognize a good job, and would be
honest about problems, would that be a good thing? Or would you rather
just work on your own, be happy with your own standards, and deal with
"overall" impressions performance when it was time to review your pay?
Do you trust your current employer enough to ask "am I doing a good
job"? Would you get an honest answer if you did ask? Would you care?
8. Last question: No matter what you're doing now, and no matter
how comfortable you are, or how well you fit into your current position,
what things might make you think about changing jobs? Seriously, if I
got out my magic wand again and promised to conjure up a new job, with a
new company, what would you wish for, specifically? Yes, money's on the
list again, but you'll still need to justify it, so think about how to
do that. And think about all the other stuff that makes your life
better - while you're working, and also when you're not. A shorter
commute? A different shift? Better people to work with so you don't
have to do everything yourself? A better location, like out in the
suburbs if you're in a city, or visa versa? Someplace where wages
balance better against the cost of living? Where it doesn't snow so
much, or doesn't roast you in the summer? A chance to get your hands on
the newest and hottest equipment so you don't feel like you're getting
stale or left behind? Do you like to teach and train young people? Do
you want to learn something that you can't learn where you are? Think
big picture, long term. What would make you consider a change? And
remember, the wand is hovering right over your head, and I might just
know how to use it.
Thanks very much, in advance, for any thoughts and answers you're
willing to share. This is a really interesting project for me, so I
want to get it right. And I figured that the people in this group would
be an ideal source of ideas and information - and probably some flame
and debate, too, which is just fine with me.
And, it's the weekend. What else have you got to do besides think
about work stuff, right?
Do you have any openings for a technical writer?
- Re: ON Topic - Job Descriptions
- From: Cliff
- Re: ON Topic - Job Descriptions
- ON Topic - Job Descriptions
- From: Kirk Gordon
- ON Topic - Job Descriptions