Redefining Jobs—Essential in a Growing Market

Why, as business improves, it's important to update job descriptions with input from existing staff


February 03, 2016
Update job descriptions with input from existing staff

In a growing market, more people and resources are needed to sell, estimate, produce, administrate, and manage projects effectively while striving to maintain strong customer satisfaction levels, quality workmanship, low slippage rates, a visible market presence, state-of-the-art software and equipment, and an even cash flow. All you have to do is hire those key people that can help you get that all accomplished, right? Sounds easy enough.

However, in the world of small business, the roles and responsibilities of the owner and each team member often overlap, so that each person is wearing multiple “hats.” For instance, the person performing estimating for the company may also be the salesperson or maybe even the production manager. In other models, a designer for the company may also do the selling and help out with marketing.

Regardless of the business model, a key responsibility of a company owner is to make sure everybody understands his or her role and knows what is expected of them. It’s the best way to guarantee that they will perform well and, equally important, will feel good about their contribution to the company’s success.

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Job descriptions are the best place to identify and communicate those roles and responsibilities. This is obvious when you’re gearing up to hire new people or are creating a new position. But it’s just as important to update and communicate the job descriptions for existing staff members, whose day-to-day responsibilities have often shifted from what they were when that employee was originally hired. 

In many cases, a new hire is simply taking a “hat” or two off the head of one or more other employees who will then be better able to focus on their core competencies. In other cases, new positions and different responsibilities grow out of changes in processes and company structure. 

If done effectively, the process of crafting and updating various job descriptions with your employees’ input is typically very rewarding for all involved. But the discussions and debates necessary for its success can also expose a level of vulnerability for both you and your employees. It’s important to be prepared for the tough conversations that will inevitably arise as you struggle to find the right balance. Recognize that each person brings a unique perspective, opinion, and career goal to the table. When their desires are balanced well with the needs, goals, and vision for your company, everybody wins! One thing that we’ve learned from this process is how important it is to convey a strong, clear vision for the company to your team in a way that will energize and inspire them to want to help you see it through. In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he writes about the necessity of getting the right people in the right seats on the bus. Once you’ve decided what the bus should look like and what seats should exist—which is your vision for the company—the process of creating the job descriptions for (and with) those right people becomes much easier. 


Marc Black is general manager of Silent Rivers Design + Build, in Clive, Iowa. He is a 2015 40 Under 40 winner.

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