The Role of the Updated Job Description as Part of CEO Leadership

CEOs and job description updates??? Absolutely!!

Once a year is fine, and you should make these adjustments only for your direct reports. Those direct reports then need to do the same for their direct reports, and this process should continue throughout the organization until the level of no direct reports is reached.

Here’s why and how.

BDA’s experience with middle market privately held companies is that far too often the CEOs of these companies conduct employee performance reviews (if they conduct them at all) annually at best, and when they do so, they spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror. How did the employee do against the review period’s goals? Assuming those goals were achieved, there follows some discussion about what the measurement criteria will be for the next evaluation period. But unfortunately the emphasis is typically more on prior performance than talking together about what lies ahead. That creates a major opportunity lost in employee reviews when much of what is being discussed can be the result of activities that are eight, nine or ten months old.

What’s most important during the employee review discussion, assuming the employee in question had satisfactory prior performance, is what lies ahead, and how what lies ahead is communicated to the employee. What is communicated should be what challenges he/she must meet going forward. And those challenges should be the result of a well crafted strategic plan that is followed by a written business (operating) plan, a document that can be given to the employee as a follow up to the “what lies ahead” discussion. It also helps tremendously if the discussion can be in the context of the employee’s updated job description, and that document should flow from the company’s strategic plan and written business (operating) plan.

There are two major reasons for formally updating job descriptions. The first reason is that with the technological change our businesses now experience on what seem to be an almost a daily basis, the realties of our global economy and the dynamics of the markets we serve, any job description that is more than 12 to 15 months old is simply out of date. With an outdated job description, your employee is working to achieve a passé set of metrics, and metrics that may not be in sync with your company’s strategy and its forward looking operating plan.

The second reason for updating each job description is that the updated job descriptions should be written from the perspective of what is needed in the employee’s background and skill sets if his/her position were being filled today by a new employee – in other words, if the current employee were to leave and a replacement needed to be hired. This offers an unparalleled opportunity for the CEO to measure the current employee’s capabilities against what skills/background are needed to perform for the future, not how he/she measured up against prior requirements that may no longer be relevant. And it presents an opportunity to have the majority of the discussion in the performance evaluation center on how the employee and the CEO are going to work together with the company’s support to give the employee the opportunity to perform effectively within the content of the updated job description.

So what are the key points a CEO can take from this Blog? The process annually is to complete a strategic planning session which allows you to generate a business (operating) plan from which you can generate updated job descriptions. These actions result in an opportunity to cultivate employees who are prepared to operate effectively on your company’s behalf in today’s complex business world. Isn’t going through that process a result of great leadership? And think how well the effort you make will serve you in the months ahead, as now you know your key reports are working on what’s important for today and the future, and performing in a capable manner!



The Ramifications of Leadership (or Lack Thereof)

What do OSHA, the FDA, Labor Unions and Sarbanes-Oxley all have in common?  They all came into being because of a catastrophic failure of leadership and absence of ethics in business.  The reasons each of these pieces of legislation came into being were not caused by the failure of capitalism as a system, but rather by the greed, indifference and corruption on the part of business leaders – including those from some of our largest and most well known corporations.

The Department of Labor’s web site states that “The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) heralded a new era in the history of public efforts to protect workers from harm on the job. This Act established for the first time a nationwide, federal program to protect almost the entire work force from job-related death, injury and illness.”  Why were these public efforts required?  Because corporations were not doing enough to adequately protect their own workers (why would they not willingly protect their human assets?), and because they would not establish a private sector form of governance that would perform a function similar to that of OSHA.

The FDA’s budget is about $3.25 billion annually, OSHA’s is approximately $.55 billion annually, and Sarbanes Oxley enforcement was over $6.0 billion in 2006 (as a former Board appointed public company Interim CEO and a 17 year public company outside Board member, I can attest first hand to the cost to corporations of Sarbanes Oxley).  Our unwillingness in Corporate America to govern ourselves and exhibit leadership that promotes ethical dealing has placed a staggering burden on businesses and the American public, not just in terms of dollars but also in terms of a debilitating loss of the public trust.

Lest we think the failed leadership and its fallout occurs only in Corporate America, consider the current debacle with the No Child Left Behind legislation.  A well intended piece of legislation designed to spur academic achievement by financially rewarding public school systems that met certain testing criteria. However too many public school districts decided they couldn’t tolerate not receiving the anticipated funding, so they decided to “game” the system by cheating on test scores.  In Atlanta at least 178 teachers facilitated cheating on test scores, some under threats of reprisal if they did not comply, and all under the auspices of Atlanta’s public school leadership.  The cost to education and beyond due to that leadership failure will be staggering.

Some questions we should be asking ourselves are: As a corporate executive, what can I do to exhibit good leadership?  How do I keep from succumbing to the pressure to compromise ethics?  How do I best cultivate leadership and ethics throughout my organization?  How do I monitor my leadership/ethical requirements to make sure they are being followed?  Does my company have an independently monitored whistleblower policy?

Refer back to Company Health Check for additional ‘best practices’ criteria.

Introductory Blog

Welcome to Business Development Associates Inc. (BDA) and our introductory Blog. We are excited to be able to offer what we hope you will find to be a valuable service, and a Blog you will want to follow on a regular basis.

Each Blog will discuss a topic that we trust will be regarded as relevant and that will be no more than three to five paragraphs in length. So a pretty quick read. And each Blog we write will either be a topic we have deep experience with and will be informational in nature or will be a topic that is designed to stimulate your thinking and hopefully generate feedback.

We will likely start with topics listed on the Company Health Check Page of our web site. Why, and why is that page on the site? Because if a company isn’t willing to deal effectively with the macro issues like those noted, it’s going to be very difficult to get the micro issues at the right level on a sustainable basis. And the page is there because companies need to be constantly assessing their level of excellence with respect to each of those issues. So we provided a reminder for them to do so.

So what we will be talking about relative to those Health Check Topics are the good and the bad we have seen through the years, as both consultants and as operating management. Why the good and the bad? Simply because it’s possible to learn from both.

Stay tuned!!