The 4 Work Types that Will Improve Your Job Descriptions

August 25, 2015

In an earlier post I suggested that all work is comprised of four basic building blocks or job types – the Thinker, Builder, Improver and Producer.

Thinkers, the first kind of job, come up with great ideas. Builders, the second kind of job, convert these ideas into reality. Improvers, the third kind, make this reality better. Producers, the fourth kind of job, do the work over and over again, delivering quality goods and services to the company’s customers in a repeatable manner.

When job descriptions are described by work types it’s easier to match a person’s strengths and interests with the actual job needs. This approach allows recruiters and hiring managers to better predict on-the-job performance, satisfaction and engagement during the interview and assessment process.

For example, when describing a user interface designer position it’s better to say, “Rethink how our customers can instantly figure out if our products fit their 3D space constraints,” rather than, “Excellent HTML, DHTML, CSS and JavaScript skills are required.”

The first version describes the need for a creative Thinker with enough technical skills to do the job. The traditional way reads like a standard techie Producer.

While the person hired needs software skills to do the work, it’s how these skills are used on the job that determines job fit and ultimate success. Traditional job descriptions don’t highlight these critical on-the-job outcomes but the use of work types ensures they stand out. The expected job results can then be used to both attract the right people and assess them accurately.

Here’s how the four work types can be used to develop performance-based job descriptions.

Bring up the four basic work types during the intake meeting:

Thinkers:

These are the people who create and develop new ideas, products and ways of thinking about processes, people and tasks. They range from business strategists to creative artists.

During the intake meeting ask the hiring manager to describe what a person needs to do from a strategic, creative or long-term perspective. For a product manager position one hiring manager told me the person needed to lead the development of a three-year product roadmap. This was a substitute for “Must have an MBA from a prestigious university.”

Builders:

These people convert ideas into something tangible. Typically they’re entrepreneurs, inventors, turn-around experts and those who manage major one-time projects.

To get at this trait I ask hiring managers to describe the biggest project the person would need to handle. For a plant manager’s job is was, “Overhaul the entire factory workflow in six months.” This replaced the need for “10+ years of high volume stamping experience in the automotive OEM industry.”

Improvers:

These people focus on managing processes, people, and departments. They upgrade or redesign existing processes, products, systems, procedures and ways of doing business.

To figure out the Improver tasks, simply ask the the hiring manager what the person needs to improve or upgrade during the first year. For most jobs these objectives relate to reengineering and redesign related projects.

Producers:

These are the people who apply their technical skills, execute repeatable processes, and sell and service customers, suppliers and co-workers. Quality starts with them.

During the intake meeting ask the hiring manager to describe how the person will use a specific skill or competency on the job. For example, “5+ years experience selling industrial filters,” converted to “Identify and prioritize the major accounts in the south east territory and increase sales by 10% during the first six months.”

How to apply these work types to your job description

Most jobs can be described with 6-8 performance objectives. Once listed, put them in priority order and classify each one by work type. The most important will be at the top of the list. To ensure a good match, during the interview have candidates describe their major accomplishments most related to each of the top 3-4 performance objectives. Using the fact-finding process I advocate the candidate’s preferred work types will stand out.

Matching people with opportunity starts by fully understanding the opportunity and then defining the types of people who find this opportunity the right match. The work type approach is an important bridge for matching all types of people with all types of opportunities. LinkedIn advocates it. The work type approach operationalizes it.

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