Frame it before you name it
Let’s start with some small gist about a guy named Tolu. Tolu decided, at 35, that it was time to get a wife. He auditioned candidates and ended up with Adaora. There was just one problem. Neither Tolu nor Adaora ever bothered to discuss what the word ‘wife’ meant to them. For Tolu, a ‘wife was an intimate partner who ran a home and raised children. You cared for her financially, lavished her with gifts, and the two of you threw a monthly party, where said wife with an impeccable figure and sense of style was a gracious hostess that all your business partners adored. For Adaora, a ‘wife’ was a spiritual partner who served as a source of comfort and counsel to her spouse and helped him grow in his walk with Christ. She cared for her husband’s extended family and put her accounting degree to use by helping him manage his businesses and save for a rainy day.
Tolu assumed that Adaora’s good looks and social graces meant that she would be a great ‘wife.’ Adaora assumed that the Bible on Tolu’s bedstand meant that he was looking for an amazing ‘wife.’ The role he was advertising and the role she was accepting had the same title. However, they were not the same thing. Guess what happened to Adaora and Tolu? It starts with a ‘D’, ends with an ‘E’, and sounds like ‘the horse.’
At WAVE, we have a simple rule for recruitment: You have to frame it
before you name it. Tolu had not done any soul-searching about what his reason was for looking for a wife in the first place. Without knowing what he needed, he never figured out the job to be done (JTBD). Without the JTBD, he could not create a job description (JD).
The JD is the linguist
The JD fixes that ambiguity titles have, and ensures that everyone’s interpretations are identical. It gives the prospective hire clarity on exactly what the job entails. It is an invaluable source of insight for you as well. When you examine the comprehensive list of tasks that make up your JD, you are able to make an honest assessment of which of the tasks require a new employee to complete them. “Framing it before naming it” can sometimes illuminate that you do not need to enter the recruitment process at all. D&D (distress and distrust) does not have to be your portion :-). Maybe the duties that will ensure your company’s success can be spread among existing employees, or added to the workload of a competent staff member in return for extra pay. Maybe the work can be outsourced to an outside company/agency for a one-time cost that ends up being far more cost-effective than having someone on payroll. You might have been looking for ‘The One’ when what you needed was ‘The Already-Present Few.’
The JD is the Judge
When your objective is not achievable without an extra set of hands, the JD is a tool for making objective hiring decisions. You can assess the list of tasks and then prioritise your goals by dividing the duties into:
THINGS THAT YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO GET DONE
THINGS THAT WOULD BE NICE TO GET DONE
THINGS THAT MIGHT AS WELL GET DONE WHILE YOU’RE AT IT
Maybe your company needs someone on-site to organise lunch, so the productivity loss caused by people returning to their desks late can be resolved. Maybe your business’s books are a mess. Maybe you hate the fact that visitors to the office have to come directly into the main hall. By according rankings to the duties your company needs fulfilled to ensure success, you can surmise that the reduced productivity caused by lunchtime lateness, and the probable audit by the Internal Revenue Service, are your biggest problems. A pretty, well-spoken receptionist is a cosmetic addition that can wait till the next year when your revenue has increased from the more efficient use of manpower. With a JD, you eliminate the risk of feeling pressured to fill a role just because your competitors appear to have certain employee titles or organisational structures. You have a clear list of your business’s unique requirements and their importance to the achievement of your company’s specific goals.
The JD is the Koko
The most empowering thing about a JD is that it allows you to join the prospective employee in asking “What’s In It For Me?” (WIIFM). You can ascribe an actual value to each role. You can measure the revenue generation potential of an additional employee, or the potential savings they will net you, against the expense of having them on the payroll. Since you know ‘what is essential’ vs ‘what is important’ vs ‘what is merely nice to have’, you can prioritise the recruitment of talent who will enable you to meet your highest-priority goals. This means you can make a savvy decision about which job merits a salary increase in order to attract the right calibre of candidate, which position you can afford to be less picky about, and which role you can sacrifice entirely.
A well-thought-out job description pays dividends that cannot be overstated. As we move through the entire process of obtaining and retaining talent, you will see evidence, again and again, that it all comes back to the JD.
Kelvin Bob-Manuel is the Communications Lead at WAVE, an organization focused on rewiring the education-to-employment system to create a level playing field for every African youth to access the skills and opportunity to become what they imagine.