Achieving "flow," or a state of full engagement with the work, starts by matching work types. If you don't get this part right, nothing else matters. You'll have hired the wrong person. 

Last year I suggested there were only four jobs in the world and getting the right person in the right one is the best way to maximize individual performance, satisfaction and engagement. Companies are obviously doing a poor job of this as evidenced by the Gallup Group reporting that 70% of the U.S. workforce is disengaged.

The root cause is obvious: An emphasis on attracting and hiring people based on the depth of their skills rather than their ability and motivation to do the actual work required. If the work isn’t clarified before the person is hired, it’s problematic if the person will be engaged, satisfied or successful.

An understanding of the four work types as a starting point can often help hiring managers see why it’s better to define the actual work that needs to be done before defining the person doing the work. If a person is capable and motivated to do the work, he or she will obviously possess the necessary skill set and interest in exactly the right proportion. This idea is illustrated in the graphic. It divides all work-related activity into one of three concentric circles: the infrastructure or Core processes, management and organization issues, and strategy and creative activities. This concept leads to the four work types described below.

The Four Basic Work Types 

Thinkers: These are the people who spend most of their time in the outer strategy or creative ring. They create and develop new ideas, products and ways of thinking about processes, people, and tasks.

Builders: These people are in the management ring but their focus is outward - converting ideas and strategies into reality. Typically they’re entrepreneurs, inventors, turn-around experts and those who manage major one-time projects.

Improvers: These people are also in the management ring but their focus is inward. They upgrade or redesign existing processes, products, systems, procedures and ways of doing business. 

Producers: These are the people who represent the core of a company. They apply their technical skills designing and building products and services; they execute repeatable processes; and they sell and service customers, suppliers and co-workers. Without them, nothing gets done.

While all jobs have a mix of all four work types, one or two usually dominate. People are the same way. They’re a mix of the four, but one or two work types usually dominate. To get the proper mix and match it’s important to define the job before defining the person doing the job.

From a practical standpoint any job can be described as a time-sequenced series of 6-8 performance objectives. For example, a performance objective could be, “Conduct a feasibility study comparing approach A vs. B within 90 days.” This replaces the more traditional, “Must have 5-8 years of experience using A and B, a BS degree in A and B and excellent analytical skills.” This example objective is a combination of the Thinker and Producer.

One way to prepare a performance-based job description is to develop a performance objective for each of the work types by answering this question:

What’s the most important thing the person needs to do as a __________?  (Producer, Improver, Builder, and Thinker).

Each performance objective should include a tangible deliverable, some measurable result and the timeframe. Here are some work type performance objectives:   

Producer with a technical emphasis: Prepare a detailed process map of our current _________ system identifying weaknesses and inefficiencies. This needs to be completed in six weeks for management review.

Improver upgrading an existing technical process: Prepare and implement a short-term action plan to improve _____ process efficiency by 10% by year-end.

Builder implementing a major project: Based on the trade-off study, prepare a comprehensive plan for a complete overhaul of the existing _____ process with completion targeted for early Q3 under rapid deployment.

Thinker using a combination of technical understanding and problem solving: Build a robust “what if” analysis into the planning phase to identify and track current unknowns, potential changes in business conditions and all technical integration hurdles. These need to be fully and seamlessly incorporated into the master project plan.

When finished, prioritize the list of 6-8 performance objectives and categorize them by work types. The most important will stand out. To determine if the candidate is a work type fit for the job use a Performance-based Interview and dig into the person’s major accomplishments. Then make the assessment using this type of Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard.

Shifting to a performance qualified approach to hiring is a game-changer in terms of attracting more diverse talent, improving quality of hire, increasing job satisfaction and raising employee engagement. Starting this approach is simple: Just define the job before defining the person doing the job.