My 10 cents’ worth about job descriptions and at-will employment.
By Richard Lynell
In my last article (http://trainingmag.com/article/are-training-professionals-paid-what-they percentE2 percent80 percent99re-worth), I talked about the trend of hiring people in our profession who needed to be experts in the company’s business and in the training profession, as well. This time I’m addressing to be determined (TBD) or other duties as assigned (ODA) in the job description.
Occasionally I will inquire about vacancies with recruiters, and eventually the conversation about the job’s responsibilities will lead to one of my biggest peeves: TBD or ODA. What’s to be determined? Hasn’t someone figured out what the job entails so a more complete job description can be prepared? I know, I know, it’s an organization’s way of covering its bases in case it gives you work not in the job description.
But wait a minute! Let’s say you apply for a job because you meet 80 percent of the job description, not including the TBD/ODA. Now let’s say the TBD/ODA is about 20 percent of the actual job. So, now you maybe meet 64 percent of the job description, assuming you have no experience in the TBD/ODA. I don’t know about you, but I don’t apply for jobs where I’m only 64 percent qualified. We don’t pass tests with 64 percent, but companies will hire people into jobs with 64 percent? This sounds like a recipe for disaster. You’ve just been hired to do a job, and by all accounts you may earn a D or a C for a score in meeting the job description.
And this is where employment, regardless of profession, becomes a little more complicated lately. You see, many companies now are employing personnel “at-will.” An at-will employee can be let go at any time, for any reason provided it does not violate public policy or is discriminatory. So, in effect you could not only be setting yourself up for failure, but your employer owes you nothing to achieve success and could decide to terminate rather than work with you to improve in the areas of TBD/ODA that you may not have experience in.
While it is my opinion that as a future employee you should try to negotiate a contract term for employment with your future employer, the employer certainly does not have offer the contract term. You should request an accurate job description clarifying what your responsibilities will and will not be; but again, the employer does not have to offer it. You should request in documentation the normal business day hours and the travel expectations. Again, the company does not have to offer it, or can be vague about it.
Let’s Be Free Agents
But this is where we all become agents of change. You see it wasn’t till about 10 years ago that “at-will” started to emerge as a stated fact of the hiring process. I had heard of it before, but generally it was left unsaid and you would only be let go in cases of economic difficulty for the company, bad performance reviews, or inappropriate behavior. You knew where you stood once you were hired, and as long as you did your job well, you had a job. Now, your boss can choose to let you go for disagreeing with him or her.
And this is where I believe the term “employee” is a contradiction for many employers. You are hired as an employee with all the supposed benefits they offer to all employees, but, in effect, you are treated as a contractor or consultant because of “at-will.” You could be doing all the right things but still be let go.
So, my colleagues, this is where I suggest we all do like the pros do and become “free agents” (consultants/contractors) instead. I grew up under the idea that you should have a regular job with benefits and paycheck, but times have changed, and so should we.
Think about this: Under new health-care legislation you might be able to buy better coverage independently than through the employer. If the employer is not offering a guaranteed pension, then you may have better choices of IRAs than the company’s 401k. If the employer’s contribution is under the “vested” principle where you get 100 percent of what the employer has contributed after a certain amount of time, then basically you are your own investor until that time has elapsed anyway. And, of course, if the employer is contributing money in company stock, then your fortunes rise and fall with that stock until you can sell it and rebalance your holdings. If you think about these possibilities, you might be better off doing it yourself than joining the employer.
But the biggest draw for “free agency” is that you are in control. Speaking as a consultant, I can offer my services to employers with an a la carte menu of options for them to pick and choose from based on their needs. The beauty of this arrangement is that the company gets what it pays for, and the consultant (as I often do) can take on more than one job.
Everything—and I mean everything, down to meetings and phone calls—is billable. You work 50 hours per week, you get paid for 50 hours per week. Weekends and evenings can be a different rate than usual business hours. But you have to make all this clear in your service menu. It’s amazing how much more efficiency, accuracy, and responsibility I see from clients when they are being billed versus how they worked when I was an employee.
Is it a little unnerving that your income is at the risk of gaining and keeping clients? Absolutely! Is it hard to offer services and prices to be competitive with other contractors? You bet! But, there are many companies out there that will work with you to find clients and get you contracts, minus their fee, of course. And once you’ve established yourself, your income potential is up to you.
For more information, visit http://www.independent-consulting-bootcamp.com.
Of course, we could all just form a union instead…
Watch for my next installment on performance reviews for new hires next month.
Richard Lynell has been in the training and development profession for the last 35 years. He has worked for both the U.S. military and corporate training, and recently became an independent consultant.