Defining the Job

Creating job definitions are not something that’s often thought of as a candidate attraction method, but the way you define a job has a massive impact on how candidates will respond to a job ad.

Learn about the best ways to define jobs, and why task-based definitions fall short.

We also discuss “real world outcomes” and how they differ from commonly used KPI’s.

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about Candidate attraction & Evaluation:

Part 2 – How to Make Job Advertisements More Appealing

And if you’d like some help evaluating your next hire, contact us about our Psychometric Assessment Tools.

Video Transcript

Hi, Andrew from SACS. And welcome to our series on candidate attraction and evaluation.

Tough times to find good people at the moment, and so we put this series of videos together to focus on two particular areas.

The first area is how to attract candidates optimally.

And in this video, we’ll be talking about a thing called outcome based job definition, because the way you define a job has a massive impact on the way that people respond to an ad that outlines a job.

Job definition is something that’s not often thought of as a candidate attraction method, but if you define a job in such a way that it’s attractive to people, it’s much more likely that you will get good quality candidates applying.

As well as that of course, if you define the job well, once you come to evaluating candidates to see whether they will suit this job, it’s going to work better.

The second part of this video series is all about candidate evaluation process.

How to use a science based approach to make sure that you are hiring the right candidates after having attracted them through things like job definition, making your ads appealing, and how to write employment ad copy.

Task Based vs Outcome based

So to focus on the subject matter of this first video, I want to talk about this concept called outcome based job definition.

Outcome based job definition is an alternative to the currently most commonly used method of job definition, which is task-based job definition.

If you look at most job definitions in the world they have a series of responsibilities, duties, whatever you want to call them, but typically they’re tasks.

You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do this. And I’ve seen up to 12 pages of these in job definitions.

Now there is good strong research evidence to say that the average job definition, this task-based approach actually doesn’t work very well to create role clarity for staff.

And there is an alternative though and that is where you express the job in terms of the outcomes that it needs to achieve.

Now, just to be really specific about this, an outcome based job definition might look like this, if we’re talking about writing a report.

An outcome of a report might be, how will the users rate the report? Are they satisfied with it? Another might be does it actually change something in the real world?

Another might be, do you cause stakeholders to do what you’re asking them to do in this report? I mean, a successful report changes something in the real world, right? It’s what we call real world outcomes.

A task-based job definition for writing a report might be I sit at the computer. It might be I speak to stakeholders to get their opinion. It might be I undertake research.

In effect that’s a list of things that you have to do.

Now, the research evidence is that job definitions when they’re constructed as a series of goals create greater clarity for people.

What am I supposed to be achieving in doing this, rather than what are the tasks that I need to undertake? Now, if you think of it from an employer’s point of view, I mean, personally, I don’t hire people to undertake tasks. I hire people to achieve outcomes.

That’s the concept of an outcome based job definition.

Candidate Attraction

Now there’s also a candidate attraction component to this because if you write a job ad that explains the duties that you have to undertake, it creates a picture in the mind of the person who might apply of a sort of a compliance obedience mentality.

Whereas if you write the outcomes that the job needs to achieve, that sponsors an attitude of initiative, it sponsors an attitude of trust. It sponsors an attitude of, okay, well I know what this job is about. I mean, it’s kind of exciting to apply for a job where you know what the job needs to achieve.

So it has a candidate attraction component to it as well.

But because this video series is about candidate attraction and candidate evaluation, I think defining the job well right from the start is very important.

Five to Seven Measurable Outcomes

Now this is a worldwide trend.

So for decades, going back to time immemorial when we first started writing job descriptions there would be lists of tasks.

But right across the world now there’s an understanding that reconstructing job definitions as lists of outcomes, and particularly not having too many outcomes is a much better way of doing things.

So we’re seeing this trend moving across from task-based job definition to outcome based job definition.

So here’s an example of what one of these things might look like (refer to video). Five to seven defined and measurable outcomes for each job.

Now, the concept of outcome based job definition is that any job, whether it’s a Chief Executive or a ditch digger or whatever can be defined in terms of outcomes that it needs achieve and not too many outcomes.

So for instance, to give you an example of my company, SACS. We employ consulting staff. And for those consulting staff there are really four outcomes that need to be achieved.

Outcome number one is happy colleagues. We prioritise teamwork. And so first and foremost, we want people who will get along with their colleagues, support them, help them. And there are ways of assessing this, typically through direct feedback.

Happy colleagues is objective number one. Second is happy customers. And the reason that that’s number two is because you can’t have happy customers if you haven’t got happy colleagues in our view. It’s a teamwork environment. And again, we get that feedback from client.

Point number three is the quality of work that a person creates. And that’s typically assessed often on a scale between zero and 10. Quality of work being if it’s good enough to go to a client, it’s a seven.

So quality of work is the third objective. And that’s typically assessed by a leader.

And the fourth is that the person must make a commercial contribution. And that means that the person must get through a certain volume of work at a certain quality with a certain amount of efficiency. And that’s also very measurable.

So there you go.

It’s a four point job description for the role of consultant at SACS.

Locke and Latham

And the reason five to seven, that comes from the research of two guys by the name of Locke and Latham who showed that any person who has more than five to seven goals kind of acts like they have no goals at all.

In other words, as you pile goals on to people they can’t split their time.

They can’t out split their psychological effort to pursue a hundred goals. And so five to seven seems to be the point at which most people cut out of taking those goals seriously or seeking to pursue them.

Once you’ve defined those five to seven defined and measurable outcomes for each job.

Real World Outcomes

And we use the term real world outcomes just to differentiate this from KPIs or key result areas of which there are often many, then you need to identify the skills necessary to deliver the outcomes, the experience or qualifications necessary and the attributes, the style, behaviours, approach.

So that’s a really simple competency model to achieve these outcomes.

You need to have certain skills, certain experience and certain attributes.

Now, if you have those things, then that will allow you to achieve the goals that are necessary.

Let me show you a real example (refer to video). I’m going to show you an example of a secretariat officer, true story.

I saw a client once and the client had engaged us to do a particular project but he had sought in multiple occasions to recruit a secretariat officer and the person who they had hired hadn’t worked out.

And the reason that the person hadn’t worked out was various and this had happened four or five times but he was seeking my advice as to what needed to be done, to make this position stick, to recruit somebody who would actually stay with the job and who would be able to do the job.

Now, we undertook the process of developing an outcome based job definition.

We discovered that there were really four key outcomes.

The office being run smoothly and effectively.

So budgets are met and the Chief Executive is satisfied with the smooth running of the office.

Secretariat function of the Executive is run smoothly and effectively.

So coordination takes place, all documents and correspondence dispatched effectively, and once more satisfaction of the CE and other members of the Executive.

Correspondence managed effectively.

Once more satisfaction of the CE and other members of the Executive, and management of the relationship between the CE’s office and the Minister’s office.

This was a public sector organisation. There was satisfaction from the CE and feedback from the Minister’s office.

What hits you in the eye about this to job? Well, it’s a customer satisfaction job. That was the problem.

It was kind of constructed as a series of tasks but the real measure is keeping people happy.

Now, do people want to do a job like this? Well, some do and some don’t of course, but were you trying to appeal to the people who do want to do this job?

In any event, this was a breakthrough, because they hired somebody who understood that the job was a customer satisfaction job and was able to do this, but also wanted to do this.

This is the sort of stuff that this person wanted to do. So that caused success.

Core Competencies

In the subsequent pages (refer to video), you’ll see that we outline certain skills, certain experience, qualifications that were necessary and certain attributes, things like discretion and those kinds of things.

So that’s an example of an outcome based job definition.

I encourage you to start to move away from task-based job definitions, to outcome based job definitions.

That will make a job definition, which will be much shorter than your typical task-based job definition, much more attractive to perspective candidates.

But also when we get to the candidate evaluation part of this series of videos, you’ll see that it makes it much easier to evaluate candidates, if you have defined the job in terms of outcomes.

The next videos that we run in this series will relate to the further task of candidate attraction.

We’re going to be talking about how to make job ads appealing and we’ll be talking about a thing called an employee value proposition which I’m sure you’ve heard of before.

We’ll be getting very specific about that.

And then we’ll go on to talk about how to write employment ad copy, before going on to candidate evaluation.

Join me for the next video, where we’ll be talking about how to make job ads appealing.

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about Candidate attraction & Evaluation:

Part 2 – How to Make Job Advertisements More Appealing

And if you’d like some help evaluating your next hire, contact us about our Psychometric Assessment Tools.

SACS Consulting