by Lara Copeland, contributing editor
Plastics Business

Written properly, a job description can be helpful for many practical reasons, including communicating performance requirements and outlining everyday tasks; ensuring new employees are capable of executing the roles for which they are hired; and setting training expectations for employees hoping to advance into new roles within the company.

Recently, Crescent Industries, an injection molding company located in New Freedom, Pennsylvania, evaluated and updated its job descriptions, ultimately creating detailed explanations for every role in the company. The level of information contained within each job description is incredible – and both management and team members have had input in the development process.

Job descriptions facilitate evaluations

Acknowledging that job descriptions should be tools for effectively communicating expectations to employees, Crescent implemented them throughout the company in the 1990s. President and CEO at Crescent Eric Paules said they “were originally developed to clarify roles as the company grew.” Early on, the goal was to identify the physical requirements necessary to perform the specific job, but as the company continued to expand, the job descriptions did, too.

“Because the job descriptions form the basis for our performance review process,” Paules noted, “they need to be sufficiently detailed so we can evaluate employee performance.” Over time, the job descriptions’ scope has grown to include travel requirements, work hazards, key performance indicators and training requirements.

Each year, every employee at Crescent participates in a performance review. This is not only a time to reflect on how well each person is meeting expectations, but it is also a time for the company to reflect on its growth and the extent of the job descriptions. During this assessment, “we use the job description as a point of conversation,” Vice President of Marketing Kevin Allison noted. “We’re evaluating employee performance against the description of roles and responsibilities, but also at this point we are verifying the relevancy of it.”

Management wants input from its team members as to whether changes or additions need to be incorporated to any role’s description, as well as buy-in from employees once the changes are made. “Through an annual performance review, we want to look at each job description individually and make sure it is still relevant to the specified position,” Allison said. Though changes are not made on every job description every year, they are at least looked at annually. This year, the Crescent team is digging deeper and conducting a major evaluation to update each role at the company.

This process has taken up a large portion of the year already, and it will take the rest of this year to thoroughly evaluate and modify each job’s description. “We aren’t spending every minute of every day on this project, but there are several people involved in the process of going through each role,” Allison commented.

Prior to the face-to-face performance evaluation, each employee is asked to fill out a portion of their individual reviews and to reflect and assess their roles and responsibilities against the job description. Supervisors and managers are asked to complete the same task. “That’s how it should be,” Allison exclaimed. “We don’t want anyone to come into the review process unprepared.”

Employees also are asked for their input regarding recommendations for their job descriptions. “As supervisors, we don’t want to make irrelevant suggestions, so their feedback is imperative,” Allison continued.

Training requirements for advancement

The major overhaul of the descriptions currently underway at Crescent has led the company to include a detailed account of the required training for each role. “When you start a new position, you want to understand the basics of what you need to be trained on in the first year, what you can expect at the next level of training, and so on,” Allison relayed. “We want each employee to know what they need to do to move on to the next role, so we have added tiers to our training portion of the job descriptions.”

In reviewing each position, management considered what is required for a person to be able to adequately meet every part of the description. Breaking the essential job functions into tiers – basic, intermediate and advanced – provides clarity for the training requirements as well as the next steps for potential advancements.

“The basic level of training is just making sure the employee can perform their job each day,” Allison noted. “If using PowerPoint is part of their day-to-day job, we need to make sure they are properly trained in that arena so they can carry out the most basic tasks their job requires.”

The intermediate level provides employees an opportunity to take their training to the next level and to elevate their performance. The third tier, or the advanced tier, is for the employees who are ready to move to the next level. Allison said that this also provides some incentive for people to be able to see, even in that same job role, that there are opportunities to increase their net worth.

“If somebody knows they can do more, that they are better trained on more items, they also know that they are more valuable to their employer,” he added. “It’s a good way to set expectations for each position; everyone should have a line of sight to see what they can do to better themselves and, in turn, earn a bit more.”

Setting clear expectations

Pleased with what the company has added this year to the training portion of the job descriptions, Allison noted that one word comes to mind when he thinks about what Crescent is trying to do, “and that word is clarity.” Hearing author and CEO of Trust Edge Leadership Institute, David Horsager, speak at the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP) 2018 Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference last fall inspired Allison. In his book The Trust Edge, Horsager describes what he calls the eight pillars of trust, and the first pillar is clarity. Allison suggested that adding the training tiers to the job descriptions makes them even more clear than they were prior to this recent update.

“Now employees know not only what their roles and responsibilities are, but beyond that they understand what is expected of them to make sure they are properly trained to perform their job,” he said.

Crescent management plans to continue thoroughly reviewing and amending the job descriptions every few years, but they are also cognizant of the fact that the job descriptions are not untouchable in the interim.

“When we find something that needs to be changed or when we find a better way of doing things, we evaluate the situation and make the necessary adjustments,” Allison said. “Rather than saying we can’t implement a change for another three years because that’s when we next plan to do a thorough evaluation and update the job descriptions, we treat them as living documents.”

He continued, saying this attitude matches the company’s philosophy to always do what makes sense for the business. Furthermore, Allison hopes that the employees feel valued and know that the company wants them to become better and more educated. “To me, that’s a wonderful thing!”