Job Definitions: Set the Stage for a Great Employee Relationship

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(The following is an excerpt from our research report, “Stepping Up: Workforce Practices That Raise the Bar on Business Performance,” which is available for free download.)

Often overlooked or taken for granted, the job definition is one of the most important influencers on the employer-worker relationship. Done well, a job definition focuses on the goals of a role, includes requirements that are essential to achieving desired outcomes, leaves out noncritical qualifications, and forms the clear job description that a potential candidate needs to determine whether to apply. In short, a positive candidate experience begins with a job description that respects the applicant’s desire for transparency about the role being considered. The Allegis Group Talent Advisory Survey reveals several paths to improving the value and effectiveness of job definitions and their resulting descriptions.

Provide Accurate, Up-To-Date Information

The first key to an improved job description is accuracy. In many cases, organizations rely on messaging and requirements that were developed long ago. As business conditions change or as the demand for skills evolves, the information grows out-of-date. Overall, only 23 percent of employers claim that they always provide accurate, up-to-date job descriptions, but high-performing talent organizations are over three times as likely as others (72 percent versus 20 percent) to say they always provide up-to-date, accurate information about the job. Highly engaged workers are three times more likely than others (34 percent versus 11 percent) to strongly agree that their current or most recent employer provided up-to-date information about their prospective job.

Along with updated requirements, a quality job description provides clear expectations for performance and outcomes. This clarity is achieved by aligning the job directly with a performance plan. Only 20 percent of employers claim they always align the job definition with a 30-, 60-, or 90-day plan, but high-performing talent acquisition organizations are four times as likely as others (65 percent versus 16 percent) to claim they always do so, and highly engaged workers are nearly four times as likely as others (31 percent versus eight percent) to strongly agree that their employers aligned their job description with detailed performance goals.

For employers, the solution to job definition issues is clear. Candidates struggle to understand true needs, so remove doubt by ensuring accurate and up-to-date job descriptions and establishing a consistent review schedule with all stakeholders. Connecting job descriptions with documented 30-, 60-, or 90-day goals helps to establish parameters for success, and the exercise of reviewing the description against those goals can reveal opportunities to further clarify requirements.

Prioritize and Streamline Job Requirements

When it comes to attracting talent, too many noncritical requirements can put the employer at a disadvantage. Those excess demands make prospective candidates feel unqualified and, as a result, deter them from applying. Today, however, only 26 percent of surveyed employers claim they always clarify must-have and nice-to-have skills. High-performing talent organizations are three times more likely than others (69 percent versus 23 percent) to do so, and highly engaged workers are more than three times as likely as others (32 percent versus 10 percent) to strongly agree that their current or most recent employer clarified must-have requirements.

To avoid driving away qualified job seekers, employers should focus on prioritizing requirements and streamlining the job definition. Consider transferable skills and their application to the job. From data science and artificial intelligence (AI) programming to soft skills in management and communication, there are many transferable skills found across industries. By reducing the emphasis on years of industry experience, organizations can open themselves to quality talent with transferable skills. Review each requirement, consider whether it is essential to the outcomes that need to be achieved, and eliminate those that are unnecessary.

Such a review and reduction of unnecessary requirements includes input and agreement among all stakeholders. For every role, approach the talent acquisition process by aligning the understanding of real day-one expectations in the eyes of the recruiter, hiring manager, and candidate. When all parties are clear on those expectations, the result is a talent acquisition process that leads to employees who are truly aligned with the job.

Be Transparent and Competitive About Pay

One long-standing imbalance in the employer-employee relationship is the understanding of pay. Without knowing how much is being offered, applicants are left at a disadvantage that can send them to another potential employer that is more transparent about a pay range. Only 18 percent of surveyed employers claim that they always make salary ranges transparent in the job description, but high-performing talent acquisition organizations are nearly four times as likely as others (57 percent versus 15 percent) to do so. Highly engaged workers are roughly three times as likely (29 percent versus 10 percent) as others to say their current employer was transparent about salary in the job description.

With pay transparency comes a need to ensure that the compensation being offered is competitive, yet employers struggle to adjust pay rates to changing market conditions. Of those employers surveyed, only 17 percent say they always make the salary range competitive to the market. High-performing talent acquisition organizations are nearly five times as likely as others (61 percent versus 13 percent) to always make the salary range competitive, and highly engaged workers are nearly three times as likely as others (28 percent versus 10 percent) to strongly agree their current or most recent employer made the salary range competitive.

While complete transparency is not always possible, addressing salary issues in the job description can go a long way toward building a solid relationship with the candidate. A growing number of organizations practice a high level of pay transparency, including well-known brands such as Aldi, McKinsey & Company, Trader Joe’s, and FedEx Freight. Other organizations opt for a more general level of transparency, offering a salary range rather than a specific figure. This approach leaves room for negotiation and flexibility to account for performance. To ensure the salary being offered is competitive, employers must account for the market supply of talent with required skills in the given location. Innovative technology solutions can help organizations determine competitive pay rates. They do this by analyzing market benchmark data, the available talent supply, and the pay of existing workers in similar roles, enabling an informed approach to pay that is current and competitive.

Is the Job Description Informed and Current About Pay?

Finally, for every job description, consider whether it is up-to-date and directly relevant to current talent needs. Companies may find themselves reusing templated job descriptions that are several years old. The skills mentioned could be inaccurate or out-of-date, and the role may have evolved within the company. In addition, there is the issue of pay, a factor that can always vary over time, and if market conditions are not considered, then the pay being offered may not be competitive. Understand the median rate for the job in the location and take the time to determine whether what you are asking will attract the talent you need. It is not always possible to be transparent about pay in the job description, but when there is an opportunity to do so, including pay information can positively influence the employer’s attractiveness to talent, and it can even improve how well a post ranks in Google jobs searches.

Adopt a Consistent Review Process

Commit to delivering an externally facing, specific, and informed job description, and the results will be a message that is positioned to attract the right talent. If a job description leads to better results, do not grow complacent. By the time the next role opens, market conditions may have changed, or the needs of the role may have evolved. Employer stakeholders should review descriptions on a consistent basis. For employers, there are no shortcuts to competing for workers in a time of talent scarcity, but keeping up with the needs of the job description provides valuable recruiting strength organizations need to secure the right talent, at the right time and cost.

Click here to get the full report of “Stepping Up: Workforce Practices That Raise the Bar on Business Performance.”

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