Why Goal-Based Job Descriptions Are the Next Big Thing

Are your people working towards the wrong goals?

According to a recent survey, goal cascading and employee turnover are the two largest concerns business leaders find themselves facing. These two challenges go together like peas in a pod, since employees who don’t understand how their contributions fit into the overall company goals are likely the same disengaged workers with one foot out the door.

A goal-based approach to hiring, if followed closely, can be the key to bringing in great talent quickly. It can also help you get these new hires onboarded and effective immediately, all while producing less work for managers, recruiters, executives, and the new employee.

How is this possible?

Well, a goal is the single thread that connects the entire process of hiring the right person. Unlike current methods, a goal-based job description can be written once and leveraged through the entire employee lifecycle.

The best way to hire great people who will contribute in a significantly to your workplace is to begin the hiring process from a goal-based perspective. Here are some ways goal-based job descriptions address the two biggest problems facing companies looking to hire talent in a more constructive, efficient fashion:

Challenge 1: Hiring Justification

Justifying the need to hire more talent isn’t always easy, especially if this hiring is taking place several layers down the organizational chart.

From the perspective of the manager in charge of the new position, it’s entirely clear why a certain department needs more people to operate effectively. But clarity diminishes when you move up the org chart.

The farther away from the position, the harder it is to understand what a new hire will contribute to the overall company. From the CEO’s perspective, all they see is “We’re hiring lots of people,” but not exactly what they’re being hired for and justifications that are not goal based often miss the mark.

This can make it hard for those in charge to understand the importance of creating new roles or filling open positions. Without proper goal-alignment, it can become all too easy to lose sight of how each role contributes to the company’s overall mission statement.

Keeping goals in sight

The goal-based solution: As the job justification moves up the chain of command, writing a goal-based job description keeps important goals in sight.

This allows executives to easily understand what the employee will be working on. It’s easier to justify hiring decisions or understand why a certain role is needed if the job description uses specific and actionable language.

But more importantly, It helps to group justifications into categories based on the strategic goals they will impact. This allows executives to quickly divide the stack. With a smaller group of roles to approve, managers can be more effective at ensuring that the right people are coming in the door and less time swimming through a mountain of approvals that too often leads to a hiring freeze.

Keeping goals front and center allows everyone from the direct manager to the corporate head honcho to understand why a particular position is needed and how the position will contribute to organizational goals.

Challenge 2: Writing a killer job description

Let’s be honest — most job descriptions are vanilla.

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The job description is the best advertisement you have for your open position, and yet many of these descriptions are frustratingly vague. Most are filled with empty buzzwords like “superstar” or “ninja” and ask for obvious qualities like organizational skills.

Too many job descriptions skimp on specific skills and deal in generalities instead, telling candidates precious little about the role they’re applying to fill. This isn’t likely to attract the kind of employees you need in your organization.

The best and brightest candidates are looking for a role in which they can make a real, concrete difference. They want to know exactly how their contributions will fit into overall company goals. They want to be inspired and engaged, and no amount of trendy industry buzzwords can compensate for quantifiable, goal-based language.

Better understanding their unique contributions

The goal-based solution: Goal-based job descriptions give employees a more solid understanding of the role, their place in the company, and how what they will be doing every day adds value. Writing a goal-based job description is more than just getting specific on what skills are needed to excel in the position.

A goal-based job description helps contextualize the position within the framework of the larger company infrastructure. Potential employees can easily understand how their unique contributions would add to company goals, achieve milestones, and add value to the organization as a whole.

It’s about more than merely listing skills, qualifications, and experience. Instead, a goal-based job description helps talented candidates understand their future place in the company and how, like an essential puzzle piece, their additions will make your company complete.

A goal-based description also allows for faster onboarding, since employees come in the door understanding what is expected. From day one these new hires understand their role and can hit the ground running, cutting down on the time-consuming onboarding and training process.

Keeping company goals at the forefront of your recruiting process is the best way to get employees to contribute to your mission statement. The goal-based job description gets everyone on the same page and attracts the candidates you need to achieve your company objectives.

What do you think? Do you use goal-based job descriptions?


7 Comments on “Why Goal-Based Job Descriptions Are the Next Big Thing

  1. By job description, do you mean job description i.e. the 4-8 page document that HR prepare that sets out a list of duties and the skills and qualifications you need to be able to do the job, or a job ad, which is, here in the UK at least, something completely different. I write recruitment copy, amongst other things, for a living and there are many different ways to write a job ad. A job description on the other hand is the bland inventory that’s used in-house to set out what the role entails, generally in a set of lifeless bullet points. I take that lifeless document and paint a picture with words about the job. That’s a job ad. http://www.alasdairmurraycopy.com/print–online-copy.html

    1. Hi alconcalcia,

      I am referring to both. First there is the job justification. This is the vanilla “Product Manager 4” description that slots the person into the right pay bracket, but gives senior management very little to go on in terms of ensuring that the new employee will be a strong contributor to an important goal. The justification should be augmented by the actual goals as they will be performed by the employee during their first year of work. This creates a contract with senior management and the hiring manager that the role is important and will provide value to the organization. It can also be used as a filtering mechanism when used in a talent alignment platform to avoid hiring freezes by allowing a company to hire only the strategic roles that are aligned to the right goals.

      Second, these goals should be inserted creatively into the job description so the contract extends to the employee, but without giving away confidential information about the role. I would guess this is where you may take an important role given your background.

      Finally, and most important, when an employee is onboarded into their goals, they should feel as if this was exactly what they signed up for when they applied for the job which will give them confidence and help avoid the “onboarding cliff” that so many new employees suffer from.

      If you can draw a line from the goals as described for the job at the outset, to the justification, to the job description, hire and then onboard, you have been successful at getting everyone on the same page. Welcome to goal-based hiring!

      1. I think @Alconcalcia has a very valid point there. Job ads need to continuously evolve depending on the dynamics in the talent market whereas the job description is more dependent on the industry dynamics that the company is playing in and their own strategy to navigate it.

        IMHO, Goal-setting is more important in the latter than the former where you need to optimize job ads to get more eyeballs. Would you agree, Andre?

  2. “Goal-based job descriptions give employees a more solid understanding of the role, their place in the company, and how what they will be doing every day adds value.” The job bescription overtime can be forgotten and changed but periodically rereading it can help an employee to remain focused and in time continue to add value to the company.

    1. Great point Charles. The more you can keep strategic goals in front of employees, the better they will align and engage.

  3. To the best of my knowledge, we were always hiring on the basis of goal based JD, especially for Sales & Collections roles. The support roles too were largely based on this logic. e.g. for Sales roles, there was a defined productivity for an executive & depending on what numbers the sales head was to deliver in a year, his number of executives were largely a multiple of the productivity. e.g. if an executive is expected to deliver 1.5 Mn loans per month & the Business/Sales head is expected to deliver 15 Mn per month, then the number of sales executives budgeted for the Sales Head would be 10. As the numbers would go higher, there would always be a factored reduction in the multiplication for Innovation/Enhanced productivity by the Sales Head for his team. But broadly the working was always Goal driven

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