Job Descriptions

Prevent "That's Not My Job" syndrome

Many construction companies fail to produce formal job descriptions and defined responsibilities for their office personnel. History has shown that this single issue can be the difference between success and failure in a growing company environment. Companies without clearly defined job descriptions will find themselves in an office “chokehold.” They simply can’t grow; not because of field capacity, but because the office is unable to track costs efficiently or produce usable cost data effectively.

In many small and first generation middle market companies, top management is often more close to the field than to the office. Not yet seasoned at preparing job descriptions and assigning responsibilities in an office environment, these owners may tend to focus on field management where their expertise lies. In this situation, it’s quite common to see the field running like a well-oiled machine while lack of attention turns the accounting department into a shambles as the company grows.

Failure to respond to this issue can cause serious problems. In this scenario, management doesn’t want or know how to define positions and assign responsibilities, which leaves the office in a weak and reactive position with the field free to set the rules. Since field forces generally dislike paperwork, the end result in the field will be a low respect for financial controls and no financial accountability. This may make life easier in the field but it’s detrimental to the health of the company and its ability to grow.

Successful managers know that financial accountability in the field is the crux of a construction company’s success but, unfortunately, many construction managers don’t know how to rectify this situation. To achieve complete financial responsibility, you need to strengthen your office, with an emphasis on the accounting department, to a level where they can earn the field’s respect and hold them accountable for their own costs. In every size of company, management needs to clearly define positions, assign responsibilities, and monitor progress – and the entire process starts with well-defined job descriptions and responsibilities.

Ignore the office and the lack of structured job descriptions and responsibilities will lead to poor accounting. Poor accounting leads to no job cost controls. No job cost controls leave the field unaccountable for cost. No accountability for cost leads to overruns on jobs. Cost overruns result in lost profits.

It may seem hard to understand why a lack of simple job descriptions can cause all this turmoil but the answer is actually quite logical. Companies without job descriptions and assigned responsibilities will usually accomplish work by continually putting out fires. In an office environment with employees that have been together for a long time the fires may not be so large but, when employees change, they can be fueled.

To successfully build a company, the strict assignment of responsibilities is critical. Clearly defining responsibilities keeps the staff focused on their work alone. Companies that believe the personnel should be willing to pitch in and help as the situation arises must do so because the responsibilities are not well balanced, the positions are not well defined, or the workload assigned is uneven.

Many companies build positions around the talents of the personnel rather than fitting the talents of personnel to specific job descriptions. This is a critical error in thinking and will lead to a dysfunctional environment where it is common for two staff members to have talent they both wish to apply simply because they are good at a specific task. At the same time, other tasks that neither is good at are left poorly accomplished or not done at all. Eventually, employees will take claim to the same task, leading to further confusion and conflict. Each employee will tend to point to one-another as the reason these tasks are left undone. To build a strong company, positions must be well defined and each employee has to be proficient at their assigned position.

It’s disappointing that employment trends in the construction industry indicate that more employees are choosing not to remain with a single organization for long. The average duration that an employee stays with a company is shrinking and the rate of geographical movement is rising, pointing to an even greater need for detailed job descriptions. When new people come on board they will not understand how your business works and will need time to adapt. Without good job descriptions and a clear assignment of responsibilities they’ll be left underutilized, appear incapable and will often be frustrated right from the start. None of this will encourage them to stay for any length of time.

By failing to produce strict job descriptions, your employees will only deliver on the tasks they enjoy. They may be fully capable of handling less-desirable tasks, but simply choose not to since nobody has told them to do it. Management will often respond to such issues by simply “throwing bodies” at problems as they arise. While that might solve a particular crisis, it also promotes a conflict-ridden atmosphere, confusion and inadequate performance. The overhead will go up and it will be that much more difficult to earn a profit, even if the task has been successfully completed – and the underlying problem will not have gone away. The end result of failing to respond will hit your bottom line. Here, management will struggle to grow; only to find that any additional work they produce will not reap additional profits.

Some companies choose to utilize lengthy off-the-shelf job descriptions. Our experience recommends that this route be avoided since some areas may not actually apply to your particular company, employees don’t bother to read them in detail, they don’t retain what they do read and they still won’t perform their jobs effectively. Even worse, you may not have the time to read them either.

Instead, call Druml Group for a free consultation; we can help you craft the concise, simple job descriptions and responsibilities that serve as a tool to help your employees perform their day-to-day work. To solve your problems, you need job descriptions that are short and pertain to your company, and responsibilities that provide a means of measuring an employee’s progress. We design the tool, we build the tool, we help implement the tool and we equip you to continue to use the tool.

Our solutions will make you stronger, more organized and more profitable in the process. We’ll create an amazing transformation in your office – and in your bottom line.