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Hiring & Keeping Salespeople - Part 8 - Job Descriptions

Furniture World Magazine


Without Them Your Organization Simply Isn’t Organized

"C an you provide me with a written job description for the position you would like to fill?" This is often the first question I ask home furnishings retailers who are looking for talented individuals to fill important positions. Unfortunately, more times than not, the answer is, "We don’t have any job descriptions."

There are few tasks as tedious as writing job descriptions, however, they are the building blocks of your company’s Human Resource system. Without them you can’t develop effective recruiting, selection, performance appraisal, compensation, and training systems. Simply put, without job descriptions, your organization is just not organized! Compounding this problem is that companies that do have job descriptions usually have outdated, irrelevant ones. In most cases, they can be found sitting in a dusty old binder or in the bottom drawer of the employees desk underneath a lot of other "unimportant stuff."

There are three basic reasons why companies do not have accurate, functional, usable job descriptions.

•Confusion regarding the focus of the job description.

•The perceived need to document every "task" done now and in the future.

•Management’s perception that there isn’t enough time to sit down and write them.

Let’s deal with the perceived lack of time issue first. You can “create” the time to perform critical business tasks and having job descriptions should be a priority. They are necessary for the survival of your organization. In fact, there are not many other issues that should have a higher priority.

Regarding the perceived need to document every task related to each job done now and in the future… well, that is an impossible task. Even if you could document each task an employee should perform, it would not be advisable to do so. Invariably task driven job descriptions end with "and other duties as assigned by the supervisor." Clearly this is a miscellaneous task that, by its very nature, destroys any useful purpose a job description can provide. Yet without such a statement, a task driven job description would have to be updated as often as any new or unforeseen task is assigned, another impossible job to do.

Task driven job descriptions are overly detailed, too long and unmemorable. If your employees can’t remember what’s in their job description, they will have to dig it out (if they can remember where they buried it) and read it each time a questionable task arises. This is a highly unlikely behavior to expect of most employees. Finally, without this last catch-all task written into the description, some employees, when confronted with an unpleasant task, will say those paralyzing words, " I don’t have to do that; it’s not in my job description."

Ultimately, the job description must focus on the job. You should have a job description for every job in your company, but you should not itemize the tasks associated with completing each job. In addition, the job description should be like a great resume; it should only be one page long (at most two pages). It takes a lot of work to get a job description into proper shape the first time, but far less effort to update it as jobs change or new jobs need to be added. The best way to demonstrate a job related Job Description is to provide an example. Look carefully at the sample provided for a Store Manager in a multi store operation on page 7.

Job descriptions can be created using either a bottom-up or a top-down approach. If you decide to use a bottom-up approach you can have the incumbent (assuming the job already exists), the immediate supervisor, or the human resource department (through interviewing, surveying, observing incumbents and supervisors) prepare the job description. Preferably all three will be involved in the first draft. After that, the supervisor and incumbent should update it as needed and inform the human resource department. Performance appraisal reviews are an excellent time for them to review the adequacy of the job description. The estimated percentage of total time dedicated to each job should be noted in parentheses next to the job (see page 7). This feature of the description helps keep employees on track. The validation on the bottom of the Job Description provides increased motivation to keep things current.

If your organization decides to use a top-down approach, the supervisor holds all accountability for keeping the Job Description current and updated and is responsible for informing the Human Resource department of all changes.

When Job Descriptions are given the attention they deserve, organizational improvement is often substantial. The result is more productive and content internal customers (employees); a condition that improves the way your external customers are treated.

Position: Store Manager
Reports to: Regional Manager
Unit _____ Branch _____
Supervises: Sales Manager, Office Manager, Warehouse Manager
Job Specific Characteristics
•Strong management skills (general, HR, financial, marketing operational)
•Able to manage multiple priorities
•Team Player
•Excellent interpersonal skills
•Strategic thinker

Organizational Characteristics
•Equitable decision maker
•Professional image/presence
•High Initiative

•Minimum 3 years in functional area (e.g. sales technical experience)
•Minimum 3 years retail management experience
•College degree or equivalent experience

Area of Responsibilities

Foster Client Relations (5%) For example:
•Help in presentation/proposals
•Follow-up on customer complaints
•Manage customer expectations

Oversee Branch Operations (60%) For example:
•Prepare branch budgets in compliance with company guidelines
•Manage people in compliance with company guidelines
•Attract and retain appropriate staff
•Provide training and career development
•Conduct performance appraisals
•Oversee compensation
•Manage information

Follow-through on Plans and Commitments (10%) For example:
•Ensure that plans are executed successfully
•Prepare status reports for corporate and branch personnel
•If necessary, make decision to change a failing plan

Trouble Shoot Problems (5%) For example:
•Resolve branch problems
•Identify potential problems and prevent them from becoming problems

Support Group & Corporate Activities (10%) For example:
•Foster cooperative relationships to advance the company
•Participate on interbranch task forces/projects

Mentor Branch Management (5%) For example:
•Coach Sales Manager on sales training techniques
•Coach Office Manager on financial management
•Coach Warehouse Manager on human resource management

Represent Branch (5%) For example:
•Attend critical sales presentations
•Meet critical prospective clients
•Attend social functions as branch representative

Latest validation date: _________________ Validated by: _________________

Sam Leder, CEO and President of “The Recruiting Leder” has 32 years of retail management experience in the home furnishings industry. He not devotes full time effort to successfully recruit hundreds of managers and sales associates exclusively for home furnishings retailers across North America. Questions on any aspect of recruiting or employee retention can be directed to Sam at samleder@furninfo.com.

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.