Do you know what’s in your job description? Believe it or not, I hope that you don’t! I’ve always viewed job descriptions as something that you read at the beginning of your employment and then put in a drawer and forget about. Why? Because I consider job descriptions the MINIMUM of what one is supposed to do on the job. In most cases, they are little more than task lists. If you perform to the specifications in the description, and do your job well, then you’re most likely thought of as a good employee, but probably not great.
What is required in the work environment is people who always stand willing and able to do more than the minimum. It requires those who are able to think about the ultimate objective and about what is required to meet or exceed that goal. In short, to problem solve. It is impossible to think of every conceivable situation and write rules, processes, and procedures into a job description or detailed instructions for people to perform. Tasks that can be mechanized to that extent don’t really require human intervention, they can be performed by a robot (assuming the physical element is within the limits of the mechanical specifications of the machine).
I was on vacation last week and one morning the shop where I had rented skis (six years running) for my son lost his boots. The employees did a less than stellar job of handling the situation. When they finally got it sorted out and we managed to get to my son’s morning ski lesson in a nick of time, the woman who scanned him in asked how our morning was going? I laughed and said, “A little bit hectic for a vacation day”. Her immediate reply was, “How can I make it better?” What a great response! I thought for a moment and said, “Would you get him to a level 6 instructor while I grab his skis?” With that, I was no longer in a rush and my day got better. My son made his lesson on time and was among the first from ski school to hit the lift.
In another experience, we shot some video on a GoPro the hotel let us borrow. The problem was that no one at the hotel had any idea how to upload the video to the cloud, download it to my phone or anything else. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the loaner GoPro had a label on it with the incorrect password. At my second stop by the front desk on the GoPro issue the operations manager happened to be working. This guy got it. He said, “I have no idea how to use this thing, I’m going to borrow it for a day myself, so I know how to help people”. When I said, “You ought to sell people micro-SD cards at cost so they can just take them home” he responded with, “That’s a great idea, I’ll pick some up on the way into work in the morning.” He let me take the card home on the promise to mail it back. It only took me a few minutes to move the videos to my laptop (they were great and well worth the hassle of getting them). It probably didn’t mention the word, GoPro in this guy’s job description. But like the woman checking in kids in at ski school, he viewed his job as anything that helped a guest.
If you have employees, think about how job descriptions are written for your team. Are they mere task lists that tend to impose limitations or do they get at the ultimate objective (production, customer service, quality, etc.) and allow people the freedom to solve problems and make improvements? Do you know what’s in your own job description? I hope not!
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