How to get people to do what they're supposed to

A 2018 Gallup report found that only 14 per cent of employees in Australia and New Zealand are engaged in their jobs.

These figures should be concerning for business leaders and anyone who cares about the state of Australian and global economies.

Companies everywhere have opportunities for greater productivity. And the analysis on business benefits is compelling: “business units in the top quartile of employee engagement are 21% more profitable, are 17% more productive, have 10% better customer ratings, experience 41% less absenteeism and suffer 70% fewer safety incidents compared with business units in the bottom quartile” (Gallup 2016).

Gallup research suggests that setting clear expectations may be the most foundational element in impacting engagement. It found that “only about half of all workers strongly indicate that they know what is expected of them at work”.

So is it possible that only 50% of  your people know what is required of them? And do they go home everyday knowing they have contributed to the organisation’s objectives? Do they know what good looks like or how you will measure their success?

What does this do for productivity? What does this do for stress? How would it feel to work hard all day, everyday, and still not be sure you are doing what is expected?

In a previous article we covered the subject of providing direction to people, letting them know where the business is going and what their contribution to it might be.

In this article we will discuss how they contribute to this.

Job descriptions

While job descriptions seem to have acquired a poor reputation, we feel that, properly designed, they are a necessary and very useful document. Contrary to some views, we don't believe they cramp anyone's creativity or provide a shield to hide behind.

Here’s how:

Primary purpose

Every employee in an organisation should understand the primary purpose of their role and where it fits into the whole.

Key result areas – not tasks

The format we recommend provides a valuable tool to convert corporate objectives into individual key result areas - not a list of tasks. The understanding this gives each job holder is a useful clarification of what is required and how it fits into the overall corporate structure. By focusing on key result areas rather than a list of tasks the individual can make their own decisions, set priorities and be innovative. 


Having measures in place will ensure there is complete understanding of what success is. This is often the area where there is confusion. Clear measures to avoid any ambiguity as to whether the result has been achieved or not is all that is required.  

It is usually best to measure the outputs of any process such as sales achieved or units produced but sometimes the job does not lend itself to this. In these cases, focusing on inputs such as orders processed and customer queries answered is quite valid. The sales resulting from these jobs may not be within the control of the job holder but the job and the actions taken are still important and can still be measured.

Business benefits

With this understanding, each employee can feel their work is worthwhile and see the linkage between what they do and what the whole organisation does. Passion and engagement is much more likely in employees who know what's expected of them and can gauge their own level of achievement.

Other advantages, apart from being a legal requirement of most contracts, are in being able to be focused in recruitment, training and rewards and, consequently, much more effective and integrated management of people.

Imagine the difference to your business compared to your competitors ' if you have your staff knowing what's expected of them and your competitors' have 50% who don't!


If you would like to discuss Horizon’s approach to developing and implementing Job Descriptions across businesses please get in touch or check out our JDs Workshop here.

The job description covers the what of a job. As important, if not more so, is the how people do the job. We have covered this in our previous article “How to manage the employee with attitude”.