5 Uses for a Job Description

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© vicky – Fotolia.com

You may be thinking about creating Job Descriptions or have some that may need updating. The thing is that every time you think about it – you find something else to do. It’s just not that exciting and you think – why bother, people look at it once then never again.  What if that one piece of paper could give your several uses – 5 to be exact – would that make it more of a priority? Let’s find out.

5 uses for a Job Description as a countdown.

5.  Legalities. Ok, this one you may already know about. Having a job description outlines the qualifications (so you can defend your position not to hire someone), physical requirements (to determine what kinds of accommodations you can make for a person with disabilities) and essential functions (what’s the minimum a person needs to do to be successful, also to determine what accommodations you can make).

4. Recruiting. It will help to keep you focused on the qualifications and skills needed. I have found it helpful in order to stop “shinny object syndrome”. You have had this happen. You are reviewing resumes and someone possess a skills that you believe would be great (shinny object) and bias yourself towards that person. The job description will keep you focused on what you really need for the position and if they possess that AND the shinny object – they may move to the top of the pile.

3. Training New Hires. You bring someone new into the organization and need to develop a training plan. Use the job description to guide you to ensure you train what is needed for them to be successful. Don’t forget to add timelines, they cannot learn the job in a day.

2. Setting Expectations. Job Descriptions are the ideal of what a position should accomplish. Share this especially with new hires and they will understand what is expected from them once their training is over.  This works great for people moving into a new position.

1. Development Plans. You probably have some great employees doing wonderful work and you have some…well…let’s say they need some development. Use the job description in a conversation with them to determine how they can improve in one or two areas noted for the next month or so.  Follow-up and repeat. You could end up with fantastic employees all around.

Start writing your job descriptions – now it will be used more than once.

Need some help getting your descriptions done? Contact me and we discuss your needs.


Do it Yourself

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© kemaltaner – Fotolia.com


Part of the services I offer is to conduct an audit of the HR systems at a company. Typically this means I review the labor posters, employee files, handbook and policies and procedures. I know, doesn’t sound very exciting. So why am I sharing?

I keep seeing the same mistakes and I want you to avoid these and you can do it yourself (or call me and I will do it) either way, just do it.

Before I get into the how or what you need to do. Let’s briefly discuss the why. Why is it important to do an audit? An audit is based on legal compliance – in other words make sure you are following all the laws that pertain to having employees.  I don’t want to scare you and it’s important you understand the implications of not being in compliance – some laws will affect you in the long run and only if an employee files suit. These can cost you time, money and attorney fees. Others are relvealed during an investigation by diffferent government bodies (a complaint doesn’t necessarily have to be filed). The I9 form for instance can results in fines from $100 – $5000 per form (or per employee). That can add us quickly.

So what do you need to do to at least get started?

Here are steps for your own audit

1. Labor posters. They need to be posted in a place where employees can see then and in a location they frequently visit. I usually recommend a break room or copy room. Depends on how your office is set up.  Next follow this link for the Federal Poster Requirements (you can also print what you need from here as well) and then you can go to your particular state site (Google your state Department of Labor).

2. Employee files.  Unfortunately you cannot keep everything in one file. You may need up to 2 files per person. First, make sure all I9’s are filed together in their own folder or binder. Also ensure they are completed properly and are in a seperate drawer from your employee files. Second, any medical/confidential information should also have it’s own folder by employee. This folder should have any forms or papers that contain medical information (sick notes, health insurance applications, FMLA leave, etc.). Lastly, all the papers that remain stay in the employee file.

3  Handbook review. This is to ensure your policies are current and it has been updated with any changes you may have made over the years.  Does you vacation/PTO policy explain when a person is eligible for benefits and how they are earned. Do you give time-off for other circumstances (medical leave, personal leave)? What is the procedure for call off of work? What is the procesure if the office is closed due to weather? The best palce to start is to think about all the circumstances you had to deal with over the last year and determine if it was covered.

This is only a start. You also want to make sure you are classifying employees properly between employee/contractor and exempt/non-exempt.

Do this yourself to get peace of mind or if you’d rather – call me and I can help.

Are you giving it away?



It is something everyone wants. I have had business owners ask for it. Yet, they are the same ones who are consistently giving it away. It’s accountability.

It’s true we all want people who make decisions, are responsible and accept the good/bad outcome as a result. Yet at the same time, without realizing it we give away their responsibility, the ability to make decisions which in turns doesn’t hold them to the results.

Now, before you start screaming at the screen and saying it’s not true. Let me ask you a couple questions. Do you do any of the following:

  • Tell people exactly how to solve an issue?
  • When an error is committed, do you tell them how to fix it?
  • When delegating, you provide all the details and they only have to follow your directions?
  • You are known as a micro-manager?

Each time you answered “yes” to one of the above, you have taken away their accountability. I know, you are thinking “no, I’m telling how to work”. This is the same as giving a student the answer to the test.

Instead of giving the answers, ask for the answers. Ask your people “what do you think we should do?” or “what are suggestions to fix it?” or “what is the best way to go about it”.

Keep in mind this is not where it ends, this is the beginning of a conversation with more questions along the “why” or “how would that work”, etc. Give your thoughts or input and have them make the decision.

Think about it for a moment. When someone else told you how to do something – if it didn’t work was your reaction “I would have done it differently” or “I knew it wouldn’t work” or “not my solution, not my problem”. When you came up with the solution or course of action that didn’t work, your reaction is more like “what went wrong” or “how do I avoid this the next time” or “let me try this instead”.

See the difference in the mindset of the person. The second person is taking responsibility and therefore is being accountable.

What will you do differently next time? How can you change this with your people?

Need assistance with creating accountability. Let’s talk.  E-mail me at andrea@focushr.biz or call 773.531.8199.

Do you REALLY know them?

communication, leadership

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Great leaders know their people and what is happening in their lives.

I said this in front of a group of business leaders as one of the “7 Leadership Habits for an Engaged Team”.  A response I got, is from one person while others nod their head in agreement – “I don’t want to hear their drama”. I get it, I’m not into drama either and that’s not what I am referring to.

So, how do you get to know people without the drama?

Lead by example. Share what you feel is appropriate and they will do the same. Share a bit about yourself and draw the line at sharing your own family drama (yes we all have it). In doing this, if someone crosses the line, gently apologize for their misfortune and end the conversation.

What you do want to lean about: their family, where they are from, do they have a spouse, kids and what they do for fun. Do they have hobbies? How do they spend time outside of work (I know its hard to believe, your people do have lives outside of work). You are gradually going to get this over many conversations. Don’t try to get it one sitting, they will feel interrogated and uncomfortable. You don’t want that.

Why should you care? By showing interest in them, they feel important, respected and cared for, they are more than just a cog in the machine. People have a tendency to respect those who show a genuine interest in the.

This is also beneficial for when you want to reward someone for an achievement, you can show it in a way that is meaningful to them, personalized. For example, if you want to thank them for working overtime to get a project done and they love knitting, maybe a gift certificate to a local knitting/yarn store.

Make you people feel appreciated and really get to know them beyond their name.

P.S. This also works great with clients.



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You hear it in everyday conversation and in business. “I had the expectation…” or “I thought this was going  was going to happen…”. It is typically and normal for each of us to have an expectation of what is happening or what a result will be. However, while we have a clear picture of what we want, we don’t always share it with another person. This results in disappointment – from both sides.

Let’s take a look at what is an “Expectation”. According to Merriam Webster:

“A belief that something will happen or is likely to happen”

In my experience and I’m sure in yours, the likelihood something will happen is increased dramatically when we share our expectations. It seems obvious right. Nothing new here.

Then why are we experiencing disappointment,  frustration and disillusionment?

We are not in habit of setting expectations with others. You will find taking the time to set expectations can increase our results, time, and happiness.

Here are a few examples on where you can set expectations to achieve better results:

Meetings:  We have all been involved in meetings where we sit there and wonder why we are spending our time. To change it, start by setting an agenda and outlining the anticipated results before hand will allow people to understand why they should take time out of their day to meet, prepare for the meeting, and the end result. If the meeting isn’t yours, ask the host to do this. Imagine how many more meetings you would attend that would be productive and you would be a more willing participant.

Delegation: This one can get people tongue tied as they are afraid to give too many details and micromanage the process.  When delegating focus on the results and not the process. Discuss the objective with the person and how you will be using what they give back to you. If you have a preferred format (word, excel, powerpoint, etc.) let them know.

Interviewing: Here is a case where we think the expectations are clear and don’t need to stated. We are looking to hire and you applied. Yes, that is why you are talking to the person. Let them know the process, how you like to interview and what will happen next. For example: I have your resume and have read it, I would like to ask you questions to see if you are a fit for the company and then I will tell you about the position and you can determine if its a good fit for you.

Networking: We are connecting with people and want to learn more about their business. As you know networking is not about getting business at the event. When you are following up with someone you met at a networking event, let them know why you are reaching out – to learn more about your business, I can help you with…, etc.

Where else do you need to set expectations? Share below.

Need assistance in making setting expectations a habit, something you always do? Let’s talk.

Attracting the Right Employees

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jim Kendall of the Daily Herald (local newspaper) on the various struggles of small employers to find quality employees.  There is so much you can do.

Read here to see what I shared with his audience.  http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20150126/business/150129375/

Don’t forget you need to focus on the planning to get it right.

Are you struggling or want assistance to get the right employees for your small business. Contact me for a complimentary consultation at andrea@focushr.biz or 773.531.8199


Plan to Get it Right

Summary: Before you take action in your business, you plan. May people don’t plan enough when it comes to hiring. Here are a few things you need to plan to get you started and to help you Plan to Get it Right.

pen and organizer on a white background

In many parts of your business, before you take action, you plan. You don’t launch a marketing campaign without knowing what results you want. You don’t give a customer a price for services without knowing if you will make a profit. When it comes to recruiting however we feel it’s ok to jump in without a plan, and then we wonder why we can’t find good people.

Right now I have many clients who are hiring new team members. This is wonderful as they are all growing their teams. Sometimes we are too eager to jump in and get a new person started.

If you really want to get it right the first time,  some planning is needed before you even advertise a job opening.

Here’s what you need to plan for:

Skills: Needed for the position.

Knowledge: This goes beyond skills, for example – a bookkeeper needs Quickbook skills and accounting knowledge.

Attitude/Personality:  This sometimes gets overlooked. Do they need to pleasant, prefer someone quiet, or do you need a more “chatty” person.

Working style: Do you need someone to work with little direction or more side by side to do the work in a particular way.

Then you can prepare yourself to ask the questions to find out what you need. This planning will help you spot who fits the job the best and who would need more work. It will also help you avoid “shinny object syndrom” that flashy piece of experience someone may have that looks like it may help you one day but is not needed now or in the immediate future.

What else do you look for in people who work for you? Tell us below.


Best Places to Work

Summary:  It’s award season – awards for best places to work. What do you need to do or consider to make your organization a great place to work.

best places to work, awards

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I have to admit I’m not a big fan of the “Best Places to Work” awards. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is vital for all workplaces to be great, it creates success in business, in people and in the community. It’s the awards. It seems to be that time of year when different publication announce their winners according to their criteria.

Yes, their criteria.  Sometimes they tell us what the criteria are and sometimes they don’t. What about your criteria? Each workplace, business and person is different and will have different ideas of what makes a great workplace.  Right now, stop reading and write down what is important to you and your company. Now make another list of what you believe is important to your employees. Do they match? Do they intersect? Is there some form of commonality?

If not, this is what needs to be looked at. Not what marketing people put together to get your business on a list.

That being said, I do believe there are a few criteria which you need to be mindful of and these are based on research on what contributes to an employees engagement in the workplace. Engagement is the ultimate test of a great workplace – not ping pong tables.

What you should strive for. What is your long-term vision for your business, what are you trying to achieve and how can your employees help you.

Belief in your mission. Yes that piece of paper or poster at one time or another you put on the wall and hope everyone reads it. If this is the case, you need to revisit and create something you really believe in, something your employees can believe in. Let it become infectious.

Sense of purpose. This is something all employees need. They want and need to know their role in the company fulfills a need and gives them a purpose, a reason to get up and go to work every day.

Doing what they love every day. Imagine if your people were focused only on what they love to do every day. Imagine that for yourself. How would it transform your business.

Focus on strengths. Not only should they be doing what they love, they should also be doing what they do best. What would that look like?

There are more, this is to get you started.  Along with a colleague we have developed a program to assess your people and your business to achieve engagement and create your version of a Great Place to Work.

Want to learn more? email me to schedule a complimentary session.

How to Motivate Employees

Summary: A common question is “How do I motivate my employees?” You are not going to like the answer – you can’t motivate others. You can however trigger their internal motivation.

motivation, employee

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This question comes up a lot.

How do I motivate my employees?  

Most people are looking for an answer that is similar to pushing a button on the remote to turn on the TV. Oh, how easy it would be if we all had a motivation button on our back that could be pushed and off we go. Unfortunately, as people, it is not that simple. To start with and you are not going to like this answer – you can’t motivate others.


Yes, you read that right. You can’t motivate others – they can only motivate themselves. Wait…but there are motivational speakers, audios, books, etc. And lots of them too. Why is that? If we could motivate others, wouldn’t we just need one book and we would all be motivated?

The thing is we are human beings that come with our own DNA, life experience and values. We are each individuals who respond to different messages and stimuli. This is why you can’t motivate others. What you can do is…

Trigger their motivation.

You need to determine what motivates each person and use that to get them going. For example – if you have a person who thrives on recognition for their work, let them know their peers/clients will appreciate all their hard work. When they have handled it to your satisfaction or beyond, be sure to let everyone know about it.

Use your imagination and reach each person by what motivates them. Time off, sports, volunteering, etc.

Don’t motivate them…trigger their internal motivation!

What motivates you? Share below.

The Art of Feedback

Summary: People want feedback more than once a year. Provide the feedback by being specific, open, create accountability and being timely.


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This is a conversation that comes up at least once a month. 

Client:  We need new performance reviews.

Me:  Ok, what are you trying to accomplish with the reviews?

Client: We need to give our employees feedback.

Me:  Is this the only time you give feedback?

Client:  Well…..yes….unless something really blows up.

Me:  Let’s talk more about giving feedback.

One of the reasons I have dislike for performance reviews is because this conversation is all too common. We aren’t providing our people with feedback on a regular basis, it’s not really intentional…we aren’t really looking to hide how a person is doing…mostly it is a matter of time or timing.

First, let’s talk about the amount of time it takes. If you sit down and think about how long it takes someone to say “good job” it’s a few seconds. Do you have time for that?

Second, what about timing. You can probably guess the answer here. The timing should be in the moment it happens.

Lastly, how to give feedback. There is a little of an art form to this in order to have impact and have others understand the feedback you are giving to appreciate it.

Be specific:  “Good job” alone may sound great, however it could leave a person wondering “for what?”.  Tell people what they did well and under what circumstances. For example:  Great job on handling customer smith’s complaint about the late shipment. I appreciate how you kept calm and got it resolved.  In this example, the is no room to wonder “what did I do right”.

Be open: Let’s face it, there will be times when the feedback won’t be positive. Don’t make the person feel worse, this will just close them off and make them not want to tackle issues in the future. Instead of – The next time this happens, I need you to do this, or else we loose the customer. Say – Tell me what happened. Let them tell you in their own words what happened, remember you haven’t heard the whole story.

Create Accountability: When things do go wrong, create accountability in the team or person. Instead of telling them what to do, have them come up with solutions to either fix, resolve, or prevent in the future. This is as simple as – tell what you can do the next time to avoid/solve this issue.

Be timely:  Talk about it right after it happens. Let’s be honest, we don’t remember details a week later and sometimes a couple days later. Take the time to provide the feedback as soon after the event as possible. This will not only give the employees the feedback they want it, it shows you are being attentive and the incident is fresh in their memory.

Your people do want feedback more often than once a year, this is how they know they are on the right path. Lack of feedback makes people nervous, unsure, less confident and disillusioned. Don’t let it happen to you.

Share your feedback stories below in comments.