Monday, March 23, 2015

Where Dreams Go To Live

Putting salary aside, which one do you think would be noticed more by unemployed domestic staff - and happily employed domestic staff - walking down the street?

The sheer volume of talented writers on LinkedIn is simply overwhelming, to the point where I often need the discipline to not check in and see what I've missed lately, in order to avoid spending the time commenting!  Not that that's a bad thing, yet, there's only so many hours in a day... and one must choose wisely what to study and what to share.

Such is the case with TalentSum's Christopher Mengel, who posted Why Your Job Description Is Where Dreams Go To Die, perhaps the most brilliant piece on job descriptions since the last one not too long ago, and no doubt until the next one appears in the not too distant future.... there's just that much good stuff now being written! And not just written, but being studied and followed on bettering efforts to attract not only the most skilled, but the most passionate. But safe to say... if you read just one article on improving your household staff job descriptions, Mengel's should be it.

Job descriptions are funny things. Often ignored by domestic estates of any size, they're the one piece of the information puzzle which good workers hunger for the very most - knowing what is expected of them, so they can know where and how to shine (notice I said good workers, a differentiation which did not go unnoticed by Gallup in their landmark survey). But even the best JDs don't do justice to what we're really looking for on our teams: passionate talent -- not just the skill. 

After returning to NYU for a course on job analysis and description just last year, I thought I had the whole JD thing brought down to a science. And, for what JDs are normally used for, that is, establishing job worth, hierarchy, one-way communication, structure, and reduction of lawsuit liability for the employer, I probably did.  But if you want to find actual talent - and not just skill - for your domestic service team, something else is needed, and no one's nailed this better than Mengel in his article, reprinted below in its entirety... having taken the liberty of editing corporate lingo for estate/domestic services mentions where needed to bring it into our own, unique focus.  

Job descriptions truly are where many service dreams have gone to die, yet with just a bit of imagination and magic, they could just as well gone there to live.  I hope for all those reading the Citizen they will.. and I hope to one day to see everyone working there, of service, challenged, and impassioned.

Edited content from the original text by TalentSum's Christopher Mengel:


The way we promote domestic jobs is all wrong!  We should be drawing people in, beating our household drum, and showing candidates what's waiting on the inside. We should be differentiating our service teams, shaping candidate expectations, and doing a better job at explaining why our jobs are worth having.

But we don't do that. We push out domestic staff job descriptions like they are a list of demands - or a list of years added to a prison sentence. 
We should be activating hearts and souls but instead, we depress the whole body. And this is how we say "hello, come and join our household"?

The job description should sell our domestic jobs and our dreams. But it doesn't. Instead, it's where dreams go to die. 
Sure, we need to use the moment to include some details, necessary skills, and the kind of experience required to succeed in the job. But, what does it matter whether  someone has seven years or nine years experience with a specific household task? You can either do the job - or you can't.

Occasionally, I run across a really good job description that sells the job and the dream - and frames the job to appeal to the right domestic staff candidates. But they are few and far between. Honestly, when was the last time you were excited about a job, exactly because of the job description?

Imagine you were a "5 Ball Juggler"

What if the only way to promote this circus job was to stand on the street corner and yell the following: "I have ordinary juggler work! Willing to pay what everyone else pays. Looking for someone who can juggle 5 balls. Don't approach us, unless you have been juggling 5 balls for 7+ years and have 9+ years experience working in a similar circus environment. Due to the sheer number of responses anticipated, no phone call will be accepted and we will only be contacting those candidates from whom we are interested in requesting further information, blah, blah, blah...."

Now, can you imagine looking across the street and hearing another circus manager yell, instead:  "Want the best place to work, grow and thrive? We run a highly successful 10-person circus and we need a great '5 ball juggler' with enough experience to add some real value to our fantastic team. We get to travel around the globe, we work very hard building our craft, and yet we play very hard, too! Let's see how we can work together with you to make our employer smile!  We gladly welcome your interest in joining our team, and we'll respond to you just as quickly as possible - to let you know if we can help you to succeed, while we also meet our mutual goals....."

Putting salary aside, which one do you think would be noticed more by unemployed domestic staff jugglers - and happily employed domestic staff jugglers - walking down the street?

This unlikely example above gets to one of the central problems I have with most job descriptions. We would never knowingly create a sign that is average and doesn't stand out. But, we do this every day with our job descriptions. We place the emphasis on the wrong stuff.

Let's bring the domestic service job description out of the Dark Ages.

Maybe because of the way we are forced to enter job requisition data on the administrative and legal side. Or maybe, because we like to think of ourselves as "hunters," we believe posting jobs is "farming" and therefore don't care about writing compelling content. Or maybe it's because it's just too damn hard to craft compelling content that sells the job and the household. 

But I believe the real issue has more to do with belief and hope.

Too may of us have gotten too comfortable with the idea that job descriptions don't work. We don't believe in them anymore. And since we don't believe in them, we don't try to fix them. All we do is go around saying "they don't work" to anyone who will listen to our hard luck story.

Hope will only get us so far.

But the truth is, job descriptions could work if more of us were willing to make them into something that actually worked! We are caught up in a false belief that keeps us from really trying to fix them.

Most good domestic staff candidates want a job they can enjoy and be good at and sink their teeth into. They want the benefits and an answer to "Why" and even some important specifics, but we offer a few weak features and generalities, or a list of banal, self-important demands. We write about how our estates offer "professional salaries" and "comprehensive benefits". What does that even mean?! Well, to me, it means the household offers average salary and benefits like all other households. Otherwise, they would actually come out and say something great like "We are proud to offer some of the highest salaries and best benefits in the domestic staff marketplace and we want YOU to be a part of it"!

Here's the real important stuff...

We need to go back to basics and ask ourselves, "What is it about our domestic estate that is unique and special." We need to ask ourselves whether we really need someone with 7+ years of this skill or 9+ years of that skill. We need to be more specific about what we have to offer to people who are going to invest their time, effort, and treasure in our estate. What makes our particular estate unique? Why would anyone want to work here? What is unique about our team culture that keeps people fully engaged and committed and wiling to stay? Why should someone be willing to invest a chunk of their life on our estate? What will they get for it in return? Hint: it's going to be more than a paycheck.

And here's why people want to work for you...

Our most healthy, qualified domestic staff candidates care deeply about improving skills, abilities and performance. Sure, they might need the money and the job, but what they also want is an experience that improves their life in some meaningful way. They want to work for an estate that embraces growth for their staff and helps them to become better for their time in the household... not worse off.

People want to understand, even agree with -- "service heart."  Most want some degree of independence, and a fair amount of trust with a rather low level of control. They want to work on teams where they can take on responsibility and have real accountability. I could go on and on.... It's a rather long list, so I won't. 

We can do better: We need to stop promoting our domestic jobs in such a horrible manner. 

We need to focus on more than our list of unreasonable qualifiers and limiters. We need to stop being so lazy and use the job description space more wisely. We need to use the opportunity to sell our domestic jobs and our dreams, too. Because, what we are doing now is not helping us... or anyone else... including the estate owners.

I don't know about you, but I think if I were a "5 ball juggler" with the required 7 and 9 years experience, I would be all over the job where I get to "make the employer smile." And I think that truly passionate domestic candidates would choose the same. And this should scare domestic employers and their agencies who rely on the same old "prison sentence" style of job descriptions.

I'd like to know what you think

Are there any good reasons for explaining that you require a specific and large number of years? And how do you think we need to improve the JD for domestic staff positions?


The above is edited content from the original text by TalentSum's Christopher Mengel.

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