Startup culture is characterized by an almost universal hatred for archaic corporate bureaucracy and anything else that even remotely resembles a plot line for The Office. But in our haste to be less like our predecessors, have some of the more meaningful protocols fallen by the millennial wayside?
One of the most challenging aspects of working for a startup is also the thing that makes it so exciting. As the company grows, roles and structures change. For better or for worse, your job description can change dramatically in mere months.
As cool as that may sound, the dynamic nature of positions within most startups can translate into some logistical problems in the not so distant future.
Update your freaking job description (regularly)!
Updating your job description on a weekly or bi-monthly basis will make your life so much easier in the long term. It sounds like a pain, but setting up a spreadsheet or Word document outlining what you do is incredibly functional.
Keeping it on your desktop makes it really easy to add a note after coming back from a meeting where you received a new responsibility. It also feels great to look at how it changes over time. I’m essentially saying it’s the job equivalent of a Chia Pet.
If you are the person running the show, make sure you and your team take time to carve out job descriptions (this goes for each person working for you). Why? From both a legal and functional standpoint, written job descriptions cannot be ignored. They serve as evidence that a clear conversation on the specific expectations and responsibilities associated with a given position has taken place between you.
This clears up any ambiguity which makes performance evaluations as well as hiring/firing processes faster, more efficient, and easier (for everyone involved).
This brings us to the dreaded self-evaluation process…
Self-evaluations may seem like a waste of time but when approached the right way, they can serve as an invaluable tool to move forward as an organization. The most common problems with employees stem from a disconnect between what the company expects an employee to do and what the employee thinks he or she is expected to do.
A self-evaluation will quickly expose discrepancies about perceived expectations and it also provides an effective framework that management can use to respond quickly and effectively to performance issues.
Questions for a self-eval should be tailored to each position. Keep questions open-ended. Yes/no answers don’t tend to be helpful.
- Please describe how well you feel you are able to meet the expectations placed upon you by the company and how well you fulfill the responsibilities described above.
- What are you most proud of regarding your work here? What are some of the specific duties you feel you do well? Let us know – it’s not bragging – this is your opportunity to take credit for the hard work you do!
- What are some of the tasks, responsibilities, or expectations you feel you need to improve upon? The more specific you are, the more effective our action plan will be.
- What could you do to improve these shortcomings? How can the company support you to reach these goal? Are there specific resources, training, or conversations that could help you improve?
People will only take these questions as seriously as you do. Assign self-evaluations at least twice a year and treat them like any other non-urgent but high priority task. Make sure the people filling out the form know you are actually going to be reading what they write.
Corny? It depends on the delivery. Helpful for annual reviews? You betcha! Having self-evaluations on file makes yearly evals way easier and gives them a level of substance that would likely otherwise be lacking. This is one thing the previous generation may have gotten right, in theory if not in practice.