I saw this Dilbert cartoon the other day (and now have permission to use it). It seemed to aptly summarize Gallup’s Q12 and Google’s Project Oxygen. Both these studies evaluated what drove job satisfaction, good performance, and weak performance, too. The dominate theme in both reports was pretty clear: clarify expectations upfront and assign people work they want to do, work that’s important, and work they are good at. 

For the last 25 years I’ve been suggesting that’s this wild concept should begin even before the person is hired, specifically, when opening a requisition for a new job. The idea is rather than using traditional skills-infested job descriptions to screen out people, define the work the person being hired needs to do to be considered successful. Then using this list of 4-5 performance objectives craft compelling career stories to attract and screen in people.  I refer to these types of job descriptions as performance profiles

An example will help clarify this oddball concept. Most job postings are in this format:  “Must have a CPA, 4-6 years of international financial reporting experience, and at least two or more years of supervisory experience.” Few top-notch accounting folks – especially those who are fully-employed and not seriously looking – will get too excited by this type of job description. However, if you say something like this, don’t be surprised if the best are beating down your door: “Use your CPA and lead a critical international acquisition effort for our company. You’ll be managing a world-wide team of accounting all-stars with exposure to executive management every step of the way.” 

Making the shift from traditional job descriptions that emphasize skills and offer lateral transfers, to describing compelling career opportunities, is a critical first step in seeing and hiring more top people. Then, don’t be surprised when you start hiring more top people who are competent, motivated and excited about the work that actually needs to be done.

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