Metric-Based Roles: How to Improve Employee Success and Performance
Why you get pulled into every problem
Running a business means dealing with employees who aren’t as invested or as knowledgeable as you.
For example, does your business experience
- almost daily fires?
- a culture of pulling you into problems?
- a constant re-iteration of “what people are supposed to do”?
- a lack of problem-solving ability within your team?
If so, you most likely have a job clarity problem, not a business operation problem!
So how do you get them onboard and able to consistently execute?
Well, the answer is a multi-step process with step one being to make sure they know what they are supposed to do!
Would you believe me if I told you over 50% of employees struggle with exactly what their job is!? Further, of the ones who know their job, most don't know how to actually do it.
Sure, they get the basics, and can regurgitate it if asked… but in day-to-day operations, where things don’t go as planned… they have no idea what they are supposed to be doing.
So what do most do? Report the problems back to you - creating a never-ending stream of fires and problems.
Job definition problems can look like performance issues while they're actually clarity issues. This not only frustrates owners and managers but employees as well as they can’t lock in on that feeling of success.
Clarity begins with definition
Part of the problem comes from poor job definition.
Poor job definition can lead to a number of problems in your business, hindering productivity and stifling individual growth. When your team lacks a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, they struggle to prioritize tasks, wasting time and resources on less critical activities.
This lack of clarity can also lead to role confusion, causing overlaps in responsibilities and potential conflicts among team members. Without a well-defined roadmap, individuals may find it challenging to align their efforts with the organization's goals, resulting in suboptimal performance and missed opportunities for growth.
No, titles and responsibility lists won’t fix it
We, as business owners, often try to fix this using a number of helpful, but inadequate approaches.
We may give specific titles, hoping that the title will imply the results, responsibilities, and duties we are looking for that person to cover. This assumes they know what responsibilities are associated with those titles, when, in fact, this is not usually the case. Merely giving a job title does not guarantee that employees comprehend the core responsibilities involved in their role, or the outcomes needed to excel in their roles, leading to inefficiencies and misalignment at the company. Titles make a lot of assumptions, with little explicit help.
List of Duties
Many often try to fix this by listing duties for each role. “Here are the things you are supposed to do”. This also falls short of being helpful. It’s too black and white and doesn’t address the real needs of a role. If you define the role by a list of duties, how do they adjust in real-time as new duties are needed to perform their tasks? Listing duties without that employee having an understanding of the first principles associated with that role leaves owners and managers frustrated when that employee doesn’t solve certain problems, avoid others, or do things that were clearly expected of them. It removes the adaptability of positions and puts them in terms that are too binary. Duty lists leave crucial areas of the role undone, and a lack of clarity around foundation responsibilities.
One fix I’ve seen to the above is to define where someone is responsible rather than the exact duties they are to perform. This still leaves to personal interpretation what a good performing area looks like as opposed to a bad performing one. They know what they are in charge of, but not how it is supposed to operate, or better yet, what the outcomes should be.
Assigning responsibilities to employees without providing a means to gauge their performance can lead to deteriorating operations within a business. Without measurable metrics or feedback mechanisms, individuals may be unaware of their strengths and weaknesses, making it difficult to identify areas for improvement and optimize their contributions, ultimately affecting the overall efficiency and success of the organization.
When addressing poor performance with employees, it's essential to go beyond pointing out what they left out and help them understand the underlying principles and reasoning behind their responsibilities. Defining roles solely through a list of duties may limit employees' ability to think creatively and tackle unforeseen challenges, as they are confined within the boundaries of predefined tasks. To foster problem solvers within the workforce, organizations must provide a comprehensive understanding of the core principles that underpin their roles, enabling employees to adapt, innovate, and effectively handle unpredictable problems and issues that arise.
Ownership over Tasks
Here is the reality, We hire people to take tasks, systems, and problems off our plates. We don’t want duties performed. We want something to get done in the background, freeing us up to do, build, or create elsewhere.
When hiring, our ultimate goal is to find someone who can take complete ownership of a specific area of our work, ensuring it is handled meticulously and efficiently without constant oversight or worry. Entrusting this responsibility to capable individuals allows us to free up valuable time, redirecting our focus towards other crucial aspects of the business and expanding our overall capacity for work and productivity. By having competent team members handling these tasks as we would, we can foster a sense of confidence and reliability within the organization, leading to increased output and better outcomes.
Empowering individuals to handle their respective areas of work without constant intervention or monitoring is crucial as it eliminates the need for time-consuming oversight and allows them to take ownership of their responsibilities. When employees have the autonomy and trust to manage their tasks independently, it fosters a sense of accountability and promotes self-driven productivity. By reducing the need for continuous monitoring, organizations can streamline their operations, utilize resources more efficiently, and create a culture of self-reliance and high performance.
We hire and create roles in order to remove our need for monitoring an area of the business, not to give us something else to monitor.
For this to happen, people’s “job” is to
- handle their area,
- perform it with excellence,
- problem solve as fires arise,
- build systems and processes to prevent problems and ensure excellence
Their job is to build and own their area without the need for monitoring, interjection, or consistent input from you on how, why, what, or when.
Listing duties and responsibilities gives individuals a flavor of what that might look like, but it doesn’t define a role, give them authority, or create the mental offload you need. Yet this is what most job descriptions are, a list of examples and micro tasks.
Quantifiable first principles
What we can do instead is give the employee one simple, measurable, knowable way to define their own job, understand if they are performing well or not, and self-define the duties needed in order to perform well.
The absence of measurable metrics to evaluate job performance further exacerbates the issue, leaving employees uncertain about their progress and potential areas for improvement. As a consequence, job dissatisfaction and disengagement set in, leading to increased turnover rates and decreased overall morale.
Here, we are going to explore how implementing a metrics-driven approach to role definition can empower individuals, fostering a culture of clarity, accountability, and success within your small businesses.
The New Job System
1. Identify the real need
At a small business, the first step to properly defining a role is to critically assess the organization's needs and identify the specific problems that require resolution. Understanding the pain points and areas that require attention will help you focus on creating roles that address these challenges effectively.
Some questions to help with this:
- Where are we failing?
- What areas are taking too much time?
- What do I need off my plate?
- What areas are growing and now deserving of full-time attention
- What areas need improvement
2. Create the metric
Once the problem is identified, you should determine a key metric that encapsulates the success of addressing that problem (and even those adjacent to it). This metric should align with the organization's overall goals and directly reflect the impact of the role. By focusing on this metric, employees will be naturally driven to perform their duties effectively, as the metric's optimization serves as a clear indicator of their success.
3. Insert into the P.A.P.A. framework
This is a larger framework we use for structuring roles, departments, pay, and other employee-related work. It stands for
The metric you derive becomes part of the *purpose* aspect of their individual P.A.P.A. parameters. They are given full autonomy to monitor and modify anything related to their purpose, which is encapsulated in optimizing their metric
4. Create Balance
Anything, when pursued too heavily, creates problems everywhere. I refer to this as the “inverted U problem”.
As team members are successful in optimizing their metric and accomplishing their purpose, new problems will arise. Assigning a balancing role, purpose, and metric to others, along with the authority to carry them out, helps keep things in check as new issues arise from growth and success.
5. Accountability Cadence
Consistent communication is vital for the successful implementation of well-defined roles. You should engage in regular discussions with employees about their performance, progress toward the metric, and any potential challenges they face. Weekly check-ins provide a platform for feedback, encouragement, and accountability, reinforcing the importance of the role's objectives and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
These meetings can be simple and quick. Here is a sample agenda that is very powerful.
- Have them report the metric
- Have them relay this metric in terms of their goal
- Ask them what challenges were present in reaching it.
- Dream what an ideal week would have looked like
- Work backward into steps to build that ideal week
- Have them leave with action items for the next week.
This weekly, continual approach to implementing improvements and working towards metrics is what creates excellence in any area.
In order for this to work, the individuals will need to experiment and try things. It won’t happen right away. Giving each person time and space to re-configure what they focus on and how they get results is a must.
You’ve shown them what they are responsible for and how to measure their own performance. Now they need to figure out how to do that… experientially. This is the only way it will make sense to them. In addition, it will arouse the problem-solving in them and help build confidence.
An underperforming person is either misinformed, misplaced, under-incentivized, or under expected from.
By following these steps and taking a metrics-driven approach to role definition, small businesses can empower their employees to focus on what truly matters, optimize their operations, and achieve their goals, leading to enhanced performance and success in their respective markets.