On a fairly regular basis, friends and recruiters will reach out to me to see if I can help them locate candidates for specialized job roles. Consistently, I am encountering two issues with the job descriptions I receive that give me pause. I’m writing this blog post to encourage you to rationalize your job descriptions for specialized roles. More often than not, they aren’t realistic.
Below is part of a job description that I’ve modified to protect the innocent. This particular example is a training role, but I’ve seen this issue with Marketing, Sales and HR roles as well. Let’s use this sample job description to review both issues.
• Creation of in-depth training reports and regular analysis
• Administration of training scheduling, notifications and participant tracking
• Expert-level facilitation in XYZ software and also leadership skills (facilitation up to 75% of time)
• Planning training strategy with various subject matter experts and business leaders
First issue: “The Miracle Candidate Hand-crafted by God.” Every organization has a lot of things to get done in the training space. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to find ONE person that has the skills to execute all of these things! Technical training on specific software is in and of itself a challenge to staff. Leadership training is an entirely different skillset. And so on. Have you just thrown every possible requirement into a job description? Could only divine intervention find this candidate?
Second issue: “Failure to Thrive, No Brain to Drive.” Reporting, analysis and administration are routine, detailed tasks. They require continuity and regular focus in order to stay on top of your population and your system idiosyncrasies. Facilitation is dynamic, physically taxing and it requires a LOT of preparation. Is it realistic to think that one individual can swiftly transition between all of these tasks? Not only will you burn out person after person in the role, you will frustrate your entire organization. Leadership will not have access to this individual when they need it. Your constituency will have unanswered questions and unresolved issues to contend with. Everybody will suffer.
Now that we’ve identified two key types of issues, let’s look at what we might do to correct them.
1) Review your specialist job descriptions with another expert in the field prior to posting them. Even the most competent Human Resources professionals can’t be expected to know every role inside and out. Reach in to your network for advice from an expert in a particular function (as people do with me). You can simultaneously use your HR professionals to help you gather requirements, define competencies and then rationalize your job requirements.
2) Consider utilizing a consultant or contractor to fulfill part of your needs. For instance, as in our example case, hire a strategic change and learning expert to meet with your senior leaders once or twice a year. Align these activities to your annual planning cycles so that your strategy is tightly tied to business results. Your in-house team members can execute the plan. Your organization might also benefit from hiring a focused, best-in-class expert for things like leadership skills training, as well. An outsider can bring experiences from other clients that provide inspiration and innovation. In certain situations, your team members might also be more receptive and comfortable being authentic in front of an outsider.
In the end, a set of requirements, does not a position make. Specialist roles can have a huge impact on your organizational capability. For change & training roles in particular, they can hugely impact your culture and morale too. By proactively preparing and rationalizing your specialist job descriptions, your success can be grounded in reality instead of chasing rainbows and unicorns.