The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.
Templates exist for best practices job descriptions. Some templates hit the mark and others fall short. Our article outlines the minimum goals to be attained by job description creation as well as some helpful guidelines to writing a custom description. Rarely can an organization pull a job description "off the shelf" from another organization and apply it without essential modification. Consider a job description model only a starting point and invest the effort into customizing the instrument to your organization and your unique job. The exercise of doing so offers value in itself.
For starters, let us explore the goals. A strong job description will...
Job Analysis should involve both incumbent employees and their supervisors. Not only should the tasks and position goals be documented, but in crafting and weighting such considerations, the keys to success and risks of failure should also be considered. The consideration and the documentation of facts are two different things. The final product will be edited and filtered for content and purpose. As an example, we document what an employee is responsible to do to avert problems, but we do not necessarily document the potential problems themselves.
Typical categories of information include Job Title, Immediate Supervisor, FLSA Status, Mission/Summary, Essential Tasks & Responsibilities, Supervisory Responsibility, Job Requirements, Working Conditions, Physical Demands, Skills & Learning Goals, and Disclaimer of Management Ability to Modify. Some descriptions may include Department, Pay Grade, Work Hours, Location/Site Travel and more.
When crafting language, measurable benchmarks must be present to ensure the standards are meaningful and reliable. Legally compliant language is essential to ensure compliance and perception of compliance at every stage of employment. Desirable behaviors should be documented in detailed description. While some label behaviors as"soft skills," successful leadership recognizes that behaviors drive results often more than skills do. Behaviors need to be measured both on the job and at pre-employment assessment. The HRS Assessment Center supports just that! Owning a characteristic is not as important at appropriately deploying that characteristic when it counts. In order to pay a bill, one needs not only to have the money but also to write the check.
Job analysis questionnaires, sample job descriptions, outsource assistance and more information are available from HRS. We wish you great success with your project!
As global talent assessment experts, HRS has spent many years researching success of video technology use in screening. We’ve reviewed dozens of platforms and learned from thousands of employers. Recently, with the continued emergence of videoconferencing use in business, video skills gain importance. However, screening platforms are still showing flaws.
The first major flaw lies in the difference between skills just being on camera as opposed to actually “addressing” the camera. These two skills have little or no correlation between them. Addressing a known audience can be far more comfortable than addressing an unknown (camera) and vice versa. Even the company’s sales reps appear “frozen” and ill at ease in certain platform demos. Videoconferencing typically allows the visibility of and interaction with an audience, a different dynamic altogether. As a regular speaker, I find it infinitely easier to “come alive” with dynamics when I have an engaged and participative audience. A flat, unresponsive audience is a challenge, and often a burden, to an educator. Entertainers sometimes enjoy that challenge, yet entertainers and educators are two different characters. Consider the actual video skills requirements of the job, and align the screening dynamic with the job’s parameters.
The second major flaw lies in the platform’s validation. Some platforms align with the proven concept that the best interviewers often are those who have the most practice. Sales and substance are two different concepts, and for many, these are sadly mutually exclusive. We researched several platforms which have specifically positioned themselves to major market employers whose keys to success lie in turnover versus employee retention. Not all organizations are talent based. In fact, many large organizations rely upon “plug and play” capabilities which create sustainability without reliance upon specific talent. The important takeaway here is to find a platform which aligns with your corporate goals for talent lifecycle. You may adopt more than one platform if you do not find an integrated solution.
The third major flaw is legal compliance. While the federal and state governments are mandating appropriate timing to potentially discriminatory data collection, inappropriately deployed video screening can heighten risks of noncompliance. Structure a program consistent, compliant and true to the job description for best protection. These are the same risks discussed in our teachings on social media use in screening.
The fourth major flaw lies in BFOQ test of reason. Unless a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) is prominent, the screening technique is at risk. If video skills are not necessary to the job description, do not consider video skills in the screening. How people present in person, in writing, via telephone and via camera are all unique characteristics independent of one another.
HRS has pioneered telework principles and use of global technology for decades. We understand the benefits and the risks. Many technology options are available, appropriate to individual job requirements. Video may or may not be the solution, and please adopt the platform which truly represents your best interests. We use video technology often… but selectively according to the actual job requirements and career path lifecycle. Detailed research is available from HRS.
Some attorneys will advise employers to avoid using social media as a recruitment and screening tool. The caution is wise; however, avoidance may be impractical, and the proper use of social media can most definitely pay off. In many cases, we consider it actually necessary. While risks of unlawful use exist and need be avoided, bona fide occupational qualifications can be investigated through proper methodology. The following 3 rules are set forth to simplify legal compliance.
1) Timing is everything. The EEOC is often more concerned about the timing and outcomes of collecting data than the collection of data itself. That is, we know certain visual characteristics when we interview or videoconference a candidate, yet premature collection and use of this data is considered unlawful “profiling.” The investigation of social media after interview is typically safer than prior to interview. A company that shows reasonable care and great diversity in demographics and advancement provides substantially stronger affirmative defense than a company with insufficient diversity and/or without reasonable care compliance. Protected characteristics are found not only in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but also in the legal changes and state regulations emerging ongoing.
2) Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQs) are still considered a lawful job requirement subject to reasonable investigation. How a candidate presents his/herself to the general public and company stakeholders is a legitimate public relations and credibility concern. While off duty behavior may or may not be appropriate to monitor and discover as a BFOQ, how a candidate chooses to be known on the Internet as searchable by customers, co-workers, competitors, associates, vendors, investors and other stakeholders, is certainly a BFOQ. Such a presence affects on duty performance, especially when easily detected by search engine or links to professional or company presence. A great job description and strong company policies will validate social media investigations.
3) Outsource investigation and/or control consistency and chain of information. HRS policy establishment, training and candidate investigation services are currently booming. While we are biased that no competitor meets our standards, please know resources abound for outsourcing implementation or procedural design as risk management. If choosing to insource the effort, control documentation and custody of information. Appropriate policies and disclosures should be considered. One size does not fit all here. Social media usage and monitoring policies should match the company’s unique practices. And, although the candidate may choose the “world wide web” to air private and personal information, the employer must remember to not further the information distribution except on a “need to know” basis. Use of search engines to collect data is recommended. The method of collecting data should align with reasonable access to information by company stakeholders.
The appropriate use of social media in hiring provides cost-effective recruitment, often with cost savings or targeted candidate access impractical to ignore. However, the very nature of recruitment via social media could grant us access to candidate social media profiles too soon. To use only social media for recruitment, in certain cases, may in itself be considered discriminatory. Audience demographics should be considered to both control costs and to also ensure abidance with Affirmative Action Plans where they exist.
It is difficult to investigate certain social media sites, especially those of a personal rather than professional focus, without receiving information regarding age, race, nationality, military, family status, sexual orientation, religion, or some combination of the many, many lawfully protected characteristics. Pictures, comments, links, interests and profile page data cannot be reasonably avoided. To better manage risks, we suggest directing the candidate to the company’s own application system rather than linking the recruitment response with the candidate’s social media profile. Such a step allows the company to broadcast the recruitment via social media but to collect responses through traditional methods discouraging profiling.
Upon reaching the correct stage and method of data collection, be certain to avoid risk of error and falsehood. Identities can be confused, and inaccurate information may be collected. Be certain you have the correct individual, and be certain the information is true. Background check permission forms should collect necessary data to validate identity. HRS recommends and designs a sequential plan of using social media investigations lawfully, consistently, with proper timing and privacy controls toward the appropriate evaluation of BFOQs. As an added safeguard, it is popularly recommended to involve an outside firm or an individual not participating in the employment decisions. That individual or firm should then be in position to report only on job requirements and BFOQs, thereby inherently controlling the distribution and use of data.
Countless unemployed individuals with plenty of time to write are emerging again with salary negotiation strategies. While it is true that strategies should change with market conditions, in many cases, negotiation should disappear completely. While many form their viewpoint based upon experiences with one or a few employers which eventually “outplaced” them, our analysis is based upon statistical knowledge working with thousands of preferred employers plus extraordinary research concerning hundreds of thousands over three decades and adapted to present conditions.
The following is a proven 6-rule blueprint to getting the most from “employers of choice.” Sure, there are plenty of bad bosses and exploitative companies out there who do not follow appropriate protocol. However, if you are a candidate worthy of a top employer, ignore what happens at substandard employers and subscribe to what works at top companies.
Rule #1: Top employers offer compensation based upon compensable factors, internal/external equities and merit-based performance proven within the organization. For top employers, the base compensation component is non-negotiable at organizational entry, except possibly at C-level.
Rule #2: Top employers do not pay you for what you did for someone else, but rather what you will do for them. Success in one environment is not necessarily transferable to another. Top employers know this. Top employers also know that overall organizational development is optimized by practices which favor merit advancement from within.
Rule #3: Top employers request salary histories up front not to set your pay accordingly but rather to evaluate equities and expectations before continuing the very costly pre-employment screening process. Failure to provide history when requested risks indication of unwillingness/inability to follow direction and/or indication of something to hide.
Rule #4: Salary negotiation is effective in a very limited sector. It can be effective only when handled correctly and in cases where the job description requires heavy amounts of negotiation implementation. Time, place and audience are paramount. Don’t be the first to bring up money, and don’t wait too long after money is mentioned to reveal that your requirements are higher. Attach compensation requests to your delivery of quantifiable results to the new employer. “I respect that the company has valued this position based upon specific metrics and expected outcomes. Based upon my history of success, extraordinary knowledge and my determination to succeed, I expect to deliver outcomes beyond those benchmarks. Is there opportunity for me to share in those financial successes? Can we set my quotas higher?”
Rule #5: Attempting negotiation risks the entire deal. It expresses discontent with the company’s existing practices and with the immediate job. Just as a counteroffer constitutes an offer rejection, negotiation of any types constitutes rejection of the “as is” opportunity. There is usually another candidate right behind you who is appreciative of the opportunity to earn rewards without staunch demands.
Rule #6: If the relationship begins with negotiation, expect that you have set the tone for continued negotiation. Rather than being awarded what you have earned, expect that you shall need to always negotiate for it. The best way to avoid constant negotiation with your company as an “opponent” rather than a “teammate” is to negotiate all at once a gain-sharing program with pre-determined financial rewards for the outcomes and results you facilitate.
When an offer is presented, please know that taking time to consider may risk the opportunity. Some companies will volunteer a proposed timeframe for your decision. Many will not. It is a myth that immediate acceptance makes you look “desperate.” Actually, failure to immediately accept makes you look “hesitant” and possibly “disinterested,” either of which can immediately sandbag the relationship. If you believe it is best to take time to consider, state your unwavering interest up front. Consider a safe explanation of the rationale behind your decision delay. If the screening process was thorough and involved multiple steps, you should have entered the offer stage ready to accept if offered. Your questions should already be answered and your interest should not falter.
Company cost control, lifelong learning, succession planning and sustainability are key organizational goals. Age discrimination can be a factor, and advancement from within is typically a preference. Employers are reluctant to pay you for what you did for someone else, because too many over time have “rested on laurels.” Employers typically have more leverage than employees in this situation. Know your power. Evaluate the dynamics of your specific situation and reject “cookie cutter” advice.
Contrary to what temp services and unemployed consultants are currently blogging about, it is essential to understand that while being a leader requires consistent practice and execution, effective leadership is also both innate and learned… nature and nurture.
Make no mistake. Effective leaders need a deep understanding of the discipline, tasks and environment in which they lead. Those who believe a management degree or diploma somehow qualifies them to lead in an unfamiliar environment are sadly mistaken, likely BS’d by their college recruiter. Simultaneously, great implementers are not necessarily great leaders. The most common mistake in business is empowering the wrong leadership, either promoting implementers without leadership skills or hiring great sales artists with no leadership substance.
Good advice is hard to come by. Bad advice is abundant. With advancement the #1 workplace motivator, promotions from within not only best engage the whole team but allow leaders to have deep understanding of that which they lead. Nonetheless, self-starters and independent achievers typically do not “get” the average worker and do not know without formal leadership training how to effectively motivate and modify behavior in others. If others do not become better performers directly due to those who lead, the leaders “lift right out” as ineffective.
Some believe filling resume gaps by labeling or creating a “consulting” firm is a positive resume builder. More often than not, this adversely impacts one’s ability to be re-employed. To set oneself apart as a freelance “consultant” or company owner can be synonymous with setting oneself apart as averse to taking direction from another… a statement likely to create de-selection from employment opportunities. Top employers will also investigate the legitimate success in engagements during this “consultancy” time period on one’s resume.
When choosing to be a consultant, know beforehand it is not all glamour and glitz. A corporate career as an internal key member dedicated to one corporate environment at a time is NOT preparation for consultancy. Successful consultancy requires the proven ability to simultaneously serve multiple unique organizations through analysis and adaptation... and deep knowledge of multi-employer case studies. Serving one or a few selectively chosen organizations is not necessarily preparation for consultancy. Conversely, consultancy is not necessarily preparation to become an internal expert. Deep knowledge of that organization is the only preparation for that role.
Consultancy requires reporting to many “bosses.” It is a myth that one can succeed in consultancy without subordination. While it is true that many employers are drawn to candidates who have demonstrated the responsibility and ambition of starting a business, employers of choice will carefully screen this situation and select/de-select candidates accordingly.
If not prepared to forever risk livelihood, think twice before abandoning the safe route of remaining steadily and stably employed, creating documented successes as an employee. Embrace consultancy for what it truly is and understand that a great consultant is never “in between jobs.”
With a wealth of auxiliary talent options available to company business plans, employers too often miss the mark in deploying the optimal schemata. In any organization, flexible utilization of experts can create cost savings while simultaneously adding new problem solving opportunities. Statistically, the most common related employer mistakes are either stagnation or selecting the wrong remedy. The four primary categories for flexible talent utilization are each unique. These are consultants, outsource firms, part-time managers and non-profit memberships, and in their uniqueness, these are not to be deployed interchangeably. The following analysis is a blueprint to determining where to plug and play each option. Let us start with definitions.
Consultant: “an expert who charges a fee for providing advice or services in a particular field.” Expertise relies upon extraordinary knowledge relating to a magnitude of employers and third party objectivity. A consultant advocates specifically for and tailors programs on behalf of the retaining employer.
Outsource: “to buy labor or parts from a source outside a company or business rather than using the company's staff or plant.”
Part-Time: “working less weekly hours than the company’s typical hourly requirement for full-time.”
Non-Profit Association: “tax exempt organization serving the membership as a whole without individualized attention… prohibited from advocating on behalf of or representing private interests” or, in other words, an intended “greater good” concern which is the exact opposite of consulting. Non-profits are expected to substitute general population betterment in consideration for taxes not paid. Non-profits by nature make great networking and collaborative organizations but cannot legally participate in the act of private interest consulting.
Clearly, these definitions describe uniquely distinctive situations, at times mutually exclusive, yet many still erroneously use these ideas interchangeably. The following is a breakdown of where to deploy each option and discussion of expected value provided. The examples herein focus upon the field of HR Management and Organizational Development.
Non-Profit Associations can be a great source of access for publicly available information, to consolidate and discuss without concern for private interest and individualized attention. Customization is limited but open door networking is high. With the exclusion of private interest, members must take on their own responsibility to screen and select only applicable offerings and talent provided by such greater good organizations. Especially in HR/OD, what is appropriate to one employer can be entirely irrelevant and inappropriate to the next employer. Classroom learning, written publications and networking access are expected to be among top offerings, and these can be offered at great prices given the tax exemptions and other fiscal advantages awarded to these entities. Individualized workshops, private employer advocacy, targeted strategic planning and custom programs are largely if not entirely prohibited. Liability is more difficult to subrogate to a non-profit; therefore, reliance upon non-profits as "experts" can be challenging. Where customization and private interest is desired, the following 3 options are better suited.
Part-time Managers can be an outstanding remedy to those disciplines which are not required full-time by an employer. Depending upon organizational structure, examples may include Training, Compensation/Benefits and Talent Acquisition. Smaller employers without the headcount to support 40 hours weekly work in these disciplines can divert these activities reasonably to a smaller time increment per week. Certain activities are more spontaneous in emergence and can be scheduled with less ease, making part-time management less appropriate. These include legal compliance, performance management, employee relations and safety. While a certain percentage of these disciplines can be compartmentalized to a part-time schedule, the organization needs at least a backup “go to” during all operational times. Where part-time managers are utilized, there is typically opportunity to choose consultancy or outsource instead. A challenge with finding a part-time manager is finding someone willing and able to consistently work only part-time and during the employer’s required hours. Turnover can be high, jeopardizing the learning curve and cost efficiencies. Semi-retirees can be a great option, provided they are still ambitious to learn proactively and do not demand to be paid for what they did well for a prior employer.
Outsource can be a great option where better efficiencies and/or outcomes are gained by using another dedicated entity’s site and resources. Depending upon the company’s existing resources, possible examples include Employee Assessment, Training, Benefits Administration, Payroll and Talent Acquisition. The most common outsource mistake is where labor intensive organizations rely inappropriately upon PEOs (professional employer organizations), temporary help services or RPOs (recruitment process outsource) for talent acquisition. Used well, quality outsource companies in these fields can control costs and streamline efficiencies. Used poorly, these methods can create barrier to attracting, selecting, engaging and retaining the right talent. Appropriate outsource of candidate assessment not only streamlines efficiency and allows expert input, but also very importantly allows third party unbiased objectivity, which is especially essential when incumbent talent is being evaluated.
Consultants and non-profits cannot be used interchangeably and by nature are mutually exclusive. Consultants are entirely devoted to private interest concerns. Top consultants understand that each employer is unique – in culture, brand, labor intensity, business plan and comprehensive operations. “One size fits all” solutions do not exist in consulting. A great consultant knows the difference and how to apply the other 3 options and will work collaboratively on that team, also offering his/her own resource team. A great consultant works with and works for the employer, drawing upon multi-employer case studies without betraying any company’s intellectual property. When selecting a consultant, it is critical to understand that consultancy is NOT the natural evolution of the seasoned professional who created success during internal corporate life… or was formerly entrusted by a successful corporate entity. Successful consultancy requires the proven ability to simultaneously serve multiple unique organizations through never-ending research, analysis, adaptation and deep knowledge of multi-employer case studies. As what works for one company need not work well for another, success for one or a few corporate entities is not necessarily transferrable predictive success for your organization. Great consultants are never “in between jobs.” They are constantly in demand, loyally retained, adaptable, and they stay busy in any economy. They do not rest on laurels and they hone their salesmanship… needing to constantly promote change and inertia.
Year after year we statistically validate that applicant pools shrink during summer and holiday seasons. Working candidates find these times the least attractive for job change. As a direct result, the best times to gain recruitment attention are September, January and Springtime (with the exclusion of Spring break).
The factors that will affect this phenomenon related to any individual employer include geographical seasonality, workplace demographics, employee retention and labor market pressures.
Working candidates under normal circumstances do not wish to give up paid time off accruals during typical vacation and holiday times. Back to school, summer plans and holiday pressures can also overburden the personal tasks in a working family, deferring job change to a time where appropriate time and attention can be devoted.
Although even in recessionary times certain market sectors continue to experience talent shortage, extreme recessions outplace otherwise employable candidates. When these fine people are seeking work during these less popular times, we can expect the existence of an above average work desire. Keeping in mind that desire for work does not necessarily translate into better work habits, the desire is still considered a positive attribute.
Under typical conditions, please expect longer talent acquisition lead times during summer and holiday seasons. Given that each employer is subject to unique talent needs, offerings and market conditions, please consider all applicable variables when planning. HRS is enthusiastically available to provide further insight, custom design and/or implementation assistance.
With a wealth of employee assessments emerging, the right assessment can seem as elusive as the proverbial “needle in a haystack,” yet absolutely worth the diligent hunt. Best practices deployment in this specific arena increases human capital ROI by tenfold plus. The bottom line results of assessments gone right is not contested, and we stand firm that every candidate hired, trained or promoted without this proper intelligence is a profit opportunity missed. And coming from staunch advocates of progressive technology… computers are no replacement for hand scoring. A five criteria process, the following roadmap guarantees ROI and avoids common pitfalls.
Ensure the assessment criteria are documented in the job description itself. Consider both the immediate position and requirements along the progressive career path. Separate the two, and consider realistic expectations for advancement. Creating a business model where every team member is worthy of quick advancement can be risky and inappropriate unless your business can keep each of them advancing swiftly. Most organizations are pyramid shaped where not everyone can move up… accordingly, too many advancement worthy candidates creates damaging turnover. Additionally to ensure legal compliance, give greater weight to characteristics validated BFOQ’s (bona fide occupational qualifications) to the immediate job, without disparity. To safeguard meaningful interpretation and to prevent legal challenge, strictly avoid personality profiles and psychological profiles. Steer clear of interest-based surveys, as results are tainted by the human flaw of erroneous self-perception. We recommend job-related in-baskets and business simulations which specifically showcase and predict results-oriented business behaviors.
Deliver assessment in an environment which corresponds to assessment norms as well as the actual job environment. For example, online delivery is best when measuring computer-based job performance. Online delivery falls short of measuring in person performance. Online and written instruments presuppose communication skills using those media. Multiple choice vs. essay, written vs. verbal, time limits, noise factors, environmental conditions, fatigue, comfort, and stress levels are all further examples of variables which affect assessment performance. Allow the assessment organization to create and/or control the assessment environment and its variables. A distinguished partner will have this automatically safeguarded, but please inquire.
Gain confidence in the business results and overall organizational development success of your assessment team and assessment developer. Validating scores against existing organizational top performers is not enough. One of the most common pitfalls, this says absolutely nothing in validation of the elimination rate. Many instruments are currently circulating at which your top performers will always perform well. Be certain those you eliminate have been eliminated for good reason. Creative thinking and unconventional ideas are the cornerstone to progress and competitive edge. Do not keep these attributes excluded from your organization.
Again addressing the need to engage progress, invention and creative problem solving… computer and/or empirical scoring just does not cut it. Exploring rationale and allowing interpretation are critical to meaningful methodology. Simply stated, there is nothing less common than sense. Valuable creative thinking is often specifically excluded from organizational entry unless expert multi-rater hand scoring is involved. Hand scoring and personal feedback each explore rationale and trainability, while exiting the candidate with a blueprint for advancement and improvement. Personal feedback is best delivered by an external assessor expert.
Selection by assimilation is rarely the goal. A glut of like-minded people does not typically foster progress or invention. Embrace differences and deploy them to the correct opportunities. There are a few assessments, the SR2 for example, which can be gainfully implemented organization-wide; however, we recommend weighting mechanisms and scoring norms to consider job relatedness. Validation to both external and internal norms is to be ensured.
In the quest for cost containment and convenience typically achieved through progressive technology, one can be quick to overlook the occasional “old school” best practices. The cost of employee time and the likely payoff of increased productivity with waste avoidance need be factored into assessment ROI. Look to the substantive results and know-how, not glitzy sales, of assessment experts. Pursue experts offering a healthy catalog of instruments tailored to unique job descriptions and criteria, and you shall find experts committed to valuable guidance in pinpointed assessment selection. The sustainable success of any talent-based organization relies upon correct, comprehensive and consistent deployment of employee assessment as decision tools.