In a recent post I introduced the concept of Work Types, suggesting that all jobs were a mix of four different types of work. As shown in the graphic, these Work Types map directly to the standard product lifecycle from start-up through maturity.
The Four Work Types
Thinker: In this phase the focus is on idea creation, planning and problem-solving.
Builder: This phase converts the Thinker’s ideas into reality, often under conditions of rapid growth and limited resources.
Improver: These are the people who upgrade existing processes, systems and people.
Producer: Maintaining existing processes or executing repeatable techniques is the domain of the Producer.
Most jobs are a mix of one or more Work Types with the Producer at the core of most of them. All skills are learned in the Producer phase. These run the gamut from technical skills, selling skills, and handling the help desk to how to manage a team or a project. In many cases people use these Producer skills in combination with the Thinker phase to figure out the best approach to implement a solution.
Implementing the solution could require an Improver mindset or Builder if the proposed involves an overhaul rather than a modest upgrade.
I contend that the continued use of skills- and experience-laden job descriptions in combination with behavioral interviewing and competency models are the root causes of why we hire good people for the wrong jobs. Using Work Types to define your open jobs can eliminate this problem by finding people who are competent AND motivated to do the work required. This is a much more direct measure of performance rather than assuming merely being skilled is the key. Without defining the actual job and the actual circumstances (or context) of the job, success then becomes problematic. This is the problem Harvard Professor Todd Rose documents in his recent book, The End of Average. He considers Performance-based Hiring the perfect solution. In fact, it was the only one he could find and would recommend.
Describing the job as a series of 5-6 performance objectives (e.g., build the team, evaluate the process, design and launch the product) seems like common sense. Why would you start looking for someone before you defined what the person needed to do? It makes even more sense when you ask the hiring manager to describe the critical objectives by Work Types. Use these questions to get started:
- “What needs to be improved?”
- “How are technical skills used on the job?”
- “What are some of the biggest stretch challenges the person will face?”
- “What are the big technical or business problems that need to be solved?”
- “What needs to be done in the first 30 to 120 days to ensure each of these projects are started successfully?”
Defining the job this way typically results in a series of performance objectives that define the task itself, the action the new hire needs to take and some measurable result. For example, a major performance objective might be, “Work with marketing to define the user requirements for the new order entry system for implementation before year-end.” One of the subtasks could be, “During the first 30 days evaluate the current product needs and determine the minimum requirements for usability.” All of the objectives then need to be put in priority order with the top 5-6 representing the performance-based job description.
To prove candidates are competent to do this work all you need to do is ask them to describe a major accomplishment for each performance objective. It takes about 15-20 minutes of fact-finding to fully understand each accomplishment, but this effort is spread over multiple interviews and assigned to different interviewers.
While being competent and motivated to do this work is essential, it doesn’t mean the person will accept an offer, though. To cross this bridge you must demonstrate that your job offers a true career move. This is where Work Types can also be invaluable. I tell job seekers that a career move must offer a minimum non-monetary increase of at least 30%. This is the combination of a bigger job, faster growth, more satisfying work and a job with more impact. A richer mix of more satisfying work is a big part of this 30%. For example, if the job requires a Thinker-Improver mix under faster growth conditions, the person could be very interested if their current job is maintaining a process under moderate growth (i.e., largely a Producer). As soon as candidates see this difference, the career opportunity becomes much more important than what the person receives on the start date – a salary, job title and location.
Work Type analysis will help hiring managers, recruiters and job seekers better understand what actually needs to be done and who among the candidates can do it best. As you’ll discover, the people hired using this approach will not only have the exact mix of skills, experiences and competencies necessary, but they’ll also be self-motivated to do it successfully.