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September 2, 2015
The ‘Reverse’ Job Description: A Company's Responsibility to Employees
 
There’s a “war for talent” out there. It’s an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees, and companies talk the talk about how they are focusing on acquiring the best of the best. They call their HR people “Talent Directors.” Job description after job description describes their searches for “rock stars,” “gurus,” and “ninjas.” And each job spec is chock full of the myriad incredible feats and accomplishments that each talented new hire has to achieve to be successful.

But so many new hires don’t stick; the data shows that almost half are gone within 18 months. And it’s not about skills — only 11% fail due to lack of skill, with the other 89% due to “attitudinal reasons.” With the high investment in time and money in recruiting, wouldn’t it make sense for companies to make more of an effort to enhance stickiness and raise long-term success? The way I see it, every open role should have not just a job description, clearly iterating what is expected of the new employee, but would also have a “reverse job description.” That is, what are the required tasks of the company to ensure the success of the new employee?

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Success is a collaborative thing, especially in today’s interconnected, matrixed, “new normal” organizations. So I say that every critical role to be filled should have an equally important role for the organization and the leaders. Here’s what it would be made up of:

Build an on-ramp. Coming into a new organization is always hard — but nowadays, you’re expected to get moving at light-speed, stat. So it’s important to provide the tools, resources, and support to enable the new hire to merge into the fast lane as smoothly as possible. How can you provide support during the early days? Who and what are the right resources for each type of problem and opportunity? Where can he or she find the tools they might need? Anything that keeps a new employee feeling new and un-integrated keeps him or her puttering along on the shoulder of the road.

Provide a pit crew. The most seasoned and successful racecar drivers know they have a pit crew awaiting them whenever they need refueling, or if the dashboard is filling with warning lights. Well, so should the greatest rock-star employee. A company should make sure there will be regular get-togethers to review the road behind and the road ahead. And expecting there will be some blow-outs and oil leaks is a pretty good idea as well, since there will be.

Plan for some speed bumps. As I mentioned above, every journey has bumps in the road. Especially at work. In the best of circumstances, with as many knowns as possible, there are surprises that wreak momentary havoc on existing teams. But for the new employee, everything’s new and unknown — new partners, new clients, new dynamics, new culture. Do them a favor and set the expectations for some bumpy moments. Expecting perfection is never a good idea; in these situations, it’s an absolute mistake.

Implement an instant network. I don’t care what level the candidate is; they’ll need some advisors and mentors. Sounding boards for problems and opportunities. Folks to look to when building their thinking. Or when the going gets tough. New employees don’t have instant credibility, respect, or trust — so it’s important to provide a few internal contacts where they won’t have to immediately earn it. Each reverse job description should allocate several of these partners and comrades.

Provide a core of complementors. Generally, when hiring someone for your team, you are looking for one or two key skills — the skills and experience that are critical for the success the company is looking for. However, when placing this person into the organization and onto a team, there are likely some complementary skills that are required — skills that might not be immediately native to the new hire. So ensure you have embedded the complementary partners needed to help get past the initial growing pains.

Give some early cheers. No matter how talented and experienced the new employee is, the new situation will feel a bit alien. And without a sense of belonging, the new hire may find the honeymoon wearing off quickly. A little recognition can go a long way towards making new employees feel at home and part of an organization, which leads to more success and longer tenure.

What do you think? Does this seem like too much to ask from a company? Should an employee’s success be all up to them?

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Michael Baer has over 20 years experience as a marketing and advertising leader and innovator.  Michael is also the developer of "Stratecution," a new way to think about marketing in the digitally-led "new normal." He's passionately blogging about his beliefs at Michael Baer's Stratecution Stories.
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