Why can a notice to quit can help your business move forward? Well, when an employee hands in their notice, the knee-jerk reaction of managers is often to pick up the phone and begin an immediate search for their replacement. It’s a natural enough reaction, but one that fails to address an organisations changing needs.
Whether you loved or hated the person who is leaving – and regardless of whether they stayed in the job for two years or ten – the decision to quit presents you with an important opportunity to re-think the vacant position before you begin the process of recruitment.
Avoid the temptation to simply duplicate the old job description and start out with some searching questions. Counter-intuitive as it sounds, your first question should always be: “Does this job actually need to be filled?”
Is that person’s job still necessary?
The position may originally have been designed to answer a pressing organisational need, but does that need still exist? Companies constantly evolve, staff members take on different functions in response to those changes and you may find that the original job role has either altered beyond recognition, or disappeared.
Could the role be expanded, or cut down?
Ask around until you get a clear picture of how the job role really worked in the months before the person quit. What areas were successful and could be expanded upon? Which aspects of the job description were seldom needed, or have become irrelevant?
Could some or all of the responsibilities be reallocated?
If the job role has diminished over time, it may be possible for tasks to be divided between two or more current employees. If it has expanded, or you want to add new responsibilities, you may decide to allocate duties between the incoming member of staff and others in the department.
Once you have analysed your needs and designed the new position, it’s time to create the job description.
An effective job description should provide much more than just a basic list of duties: it should offer an informative overview of your organisation, highlighting the role that the new employee will play within it. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:
1. The company
This is your chance to give candidates a real flavour of what it’s like to work for you. Start with a brief description and go on to outline some positive recent developments. Share your company’s vision for the future: where is it heading, and what strategy will be used to take it there?
Candidates will also want to learn about the corporate culture within your organisation. Do you encourage employees to contribute ideas and suggestions? Do you offer them training to develop their skills? What is your management style?
2. Overall purpose and context of the position
This is the section where you demonstrate how the job fits in to the corporate environment described above.
Why is the job needed? Candidates should feel that they will make a useful contribution to the company’s development and that their work will be valued.
What are the principle job challenges? Be honest about any difficulties or obstacles the new employee will face.
3. Job priorities and objectives
Be clear and specific about what your new employee is expected to achieve and what aspects of the job should be prioritised in order to meet agreed targets.
4. Structure of organisation
Show where the job role sits within the organisation as a whole, then describe its relationship with specific areas of your business: for example, contacts with other functions or operating companies and any relationship to the finance function.
Explain here about career progression: how the candidate might advance from one job to another.
5. Reporting relationships
Set out the new employee’s relationships with other members of staff. Who do they report to? Who reports to them? Does the position co-ordinate any other members of staff who report to another position?
This is your opportunity to outline exactly what you want your new employee to do, so be clear about what is needed. This is not just about the tasks required, but the standards you expect your employee to meet when carrying out those tasks, and how you will appraise their performance.
At this point you should also describe the level of authority conveyed by the job role. What powers does the employee have with regard to making high-level decisions, commanding resources, disciplining other members of staff?
The departure of an employee inevitably causes a certain amount of disruption for the staff that remain, but if the vacant job role has been updated to meet current needs, the transition should be considerably easier.
A job description should be a dynamic, living document, constantly re-written in response to the changes experienced by your business: so next time a staff member quits, use the opportunity to create an exciting new position, not just a carbon copy of their old job.
Peter Forshaw – Managing Director, Maxwell Stephens
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