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Don’t Hire People To Work

by Dave Pratt

Most of us hire people to work.  We write job descriptions telling them to do this or that.  But what people do and how long or hard they work is not important.  It is only the means to the end. The end is the results they produce.   

As an employer you would be well served to start thinking about work this way because the people you employ already do!  In survey after survey, workers report that the thing that motivates them more than anything else is achievement.  Perhaps it is time we stopped calling them workers, and started calling them achievers.  Maybe we ought to stop writing job descriptions and start writing achievement descriptions.

At Ranch Management Consultants, we use effectiveness areas rather than job descriptions.  A job description describes what people do.  Effectiveness areas describe the results an employee is expected to produce.  More precisely, effectiveness areas describe an employee’s responsibilities, then measurable targets are assigned to each effectiveness area to define the results.  

Searching the internet for job postings on ranches I found this opening:

Wanted Ranch Hand:
Duties include all aspects of farm and ranch work including:

  • working with cows (calving, sorting, hauling, weaning, etc.),
  • fixing fence and tanks and pipelines
  • driving truck and operating heavy machinery (seeder, tractors, balers, haybine)
  • mechanical and welding experience is also helpful.

Of course, all of this describes what they want the person to do.  There isn’t one word about the results they want this employee to achieve. If we were to rewrite this as effectiveness areas it might read:

You will be responsible for livestock production, facilities maintenance and enterprise gross margin.

Then, for each of these effectiveness areas we’d assign a measurable target (e.g. for livestock production we could set a weaning rate target of >90% or a rate of gain target of 2 pounds/day).  We would require that our employee develop (or help us develop) a plan describing how they will produce results and meet the target. This process gives us a way to objectively measure performance and hold employees accountable for producing results.

That may sound like a lot to expect from an employee.  That’s okay. I just looked through a website connecting people who are looking for ranch work with ranches looking for workers.  The job seekers outnumbered the job openings by more than 2 to 1. Employers can be choosy. And if you are looking for a job, what better way to distinguish yourself than to show a prospective employer the results you can produce.    

The bigger challenge of using effectiveness areas is not setting the bar high for employees; it is setting the bar high for employers.  To use effectiveness areas, employers need to be clear on the results they need to run a successful business.

A friend recently told me of an experience he’d gone through finding a good employee.  It took him a long time. After a long day working together he asked his new man, Do you know how long it’s taken me to find a good employee?  Without a moment’s hesitation the new employee responded, I’ll bet it wasn’t nearly as long as it’s taken me to find a good boss.

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