Change the Way You Hire Part 4: Fill Needs, Not Positions


Job descriptions are one of the most shared documents among organizations. Have you ever wondered how complex organizations with unique needs and circumstances can all require basically the same job duties? Fact is, they can’t.

Take a good look at your organization and you will find that many of the employees work in the “other duties as assigned” category of their job description. This is because organizations are notoriously bad at planning for future needs and fully understanding their current needs.

Therefore, many times when people join an organization their workload is filled with fluff until the employee figures out where they can provide the most value.

First you need to decide if hiring is even the best move. The natural response is to throw additional people at problems when resources are stretched but that is not always the best solution. For every employee that is overworked, there is at least 2-3 that are under worked.

If you are convinced that hiring is the best move then make sure you select the correct person. It is a manager’s job to fully understand what resources are needed to complete the job. That way you can accurately reflect an employee’s responsibilities in a job description.

HR wants you to standardize job descriptions but it is very rare that two individuals will be doing the exact same job. Your job descriptions should not be a safety net that catches all potential responsibilities of an individual, but instead, a blueprint outlining what they will actually be doing. You can update the job descriptions as new responsibilities are added by adopting a more flexible job description model.

The job description needs to be able to adapt to the ever changing working environment we currently live in.

Do not hire prematurely. Train and develop other staff members that have a lighter workload to fill immediate needs. You should also look for ways to lessen the workload of employees in an area that is at capacity by removing mundane or low-skilled tasks. You should not hire until you are at a breaking point. Premature hiring leads to low morale and bloat because employees with a light workload have to find something to do with their time, and chances are it is not going to be productive.

Thanks for coming back for part 3 of this series. If you have not already, please check out:


Tim Howell is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Hannah Moss

This is such a good reminder. Most often, when a position becomes vacant, we are asked to send out the exact same job description we used years ago to initially fill the position. But that’s often the wrong call as jobs change and grow over time. Thanks for sharing!