Do your employees know what they are being paid for?

Many years ago I sat down with one of my employees and asked why he hadn’t made progress on his assignment. “I haven’t had the time to work on it,” he told me. I asked him what he had been working on. His answer was both informative, instructive, and insidious.

”By the time I’ve finished reading Computer World, InformationWeek, Datamation, and the other IT journals, there just isn’t that much time left in the day,” he said. Since he was busy all day, he assumed that he was earning his pay. I asked who told him to read all those journals. “No one, I just assumed it was part of my job.”

Over the years I’ve observed that you can’t assume that employees understand what they are being paid for. I will ask someone what is the most important result they are being paid to deliver. If they answer with an activity, I ask again what is the result they are being paid to produce.

A receptionist may think that his or her job is to man the front desk between 9am and 5pm, when in fact the job is to make callers and visitors feel welcome and to connect them with someone who can solve their problem quickly. Can we blame them for their confusion if their performance metrics don’t specifically include customer satisfaction?

Every employee should understand the five or so key results he is expected to produce and how they will be measured. Job descriptions should focus on the results expected rather than the activities that may or may not lead to those results. When an employee understands what those results are and feels personally accountable for them, he “owns” his job.

I’ve outlined a process for a better way to structure the job description and performance review process in an article published in the Business Strategy Series (Turning the Tables on Performance Reviews: How to Create a Better Process That Empowers, Energizes and Rewards Your Employees). Take a look, and contact me if you’d like to learn how to apply this process in your own organization.

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