Supercharge Your Job Descriptions

Part of the current lexicon of business mythology today is that Disney calls its theme park employees cast members. Walt Disney himself started this practice when he first opened Disneyland in 1955. Disney didn’t view his creation as an amusement park; he saw it as a theater for his visitors. He wanted to create a show for those who walked through the gates of Disneyland. Disney described everything in the park using theater terms, and as a result, park employees became known as cast members.

If you embrace the idea of seeing your employees as cast members and your business as an experience for your audience (customers/clients/guests), you quickly realize that a job description which is a list of hard skills and tasks for any position is inadequate. It would be best if you had job descriptions that shared details similar to what we find in describing the character roles in a play.

Michael Hauge is an American story consultant, author, and lecturer who works with writers and filmmakers on their screenplays, novels, movies, and television projects. Hauge works extensively with Hollywood executives, producers, agents, and managers, helping them sharpen their story and development skills, with advanced principles of structure, character arc, and theme to communicate a story’s strengths and weaknesses and works with writers to achieve a commercially successful screenplay.

On his website, Michael teaches that the key to excellent character description is describing the character in vivid, revealing details. He sees generalization as the most common weakness in character descriptions. They paint no images in the reader’s mind. They share nothing important or emotionally involving about the role. Michael urges storytellers to provide two or three vivid details that convey the essence of the character to the audience.

So often we create our job descriptions they are nothing more than a generic to-do list focused on hard skills and tasks. Do this. Do that. Lift 50 pounds. Some travel required. Show up on time. Stay late. Other duties and functions as may be assigned. Such job descriptions lack emotional appeal and make the role seem unimportant.

Imagine if your job descriptions began by describing your target audience (your clients), your central storyline, (the mission of the business), and how the role of the character (employee job description) is crucial in delivering the story to the audience. Such a job description communicates to the employee that his or her part is necessary for the delivery of the central storyline.

Review the following two job descriptions:

Disney Job Summary:

At Disney, we’re storytellers. We make the impossible possible. We do this by utilizing and developing cutting-edge technology and pushing the envelope to bring stories to life through our movies, products, interactive games, parks and resorts, and media networks. Now is your chance to join our talented team that delivers unparalleled creative content to audiences around the world. “We create happiness.” That’s our motto at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. And it permeates everything we do. At Disney, you’ll help inspire that Magic by enabling our teams to push the limits of entertainment and create the never-before-seen!

Protecting the Magic is the primary goal of the Walt Disney World® Resort Security team. Cast Members may work in various locations throughout our Theme Park and Resort Hotel areas, both on-stage and backstage, maintaining an environment that enables our guests and cast members to experience the Magic of Disney. As a Security Plain Clothes Operative, your duties will entail managing stressful situations while delivering consistently high guest service.

Lagoon Job Summary:

Under general supervision, the Security Officer is responsible for patrolling and inspecting Lagoon property to protect against fire, theft, vandalism, employee/guest injury, illegal activity and/or inappropriate guest/employee activity in accordance with company policies and procedures. Security Officers will also assist in directing vehicles in parking areas, directing traffic, and assisting guests wherever possible. The Security Division is directly involved in loss prevention. Security Officers will carry a two-way radio at all times while on duty. The Security Officer must also be able to respond promptly and efficiently to any situation; therefore, meal times are not scheduled and will be taken at the discretion of the Safety & Security Department.

Which job would you want? Protecting the Magic or patrolling and inspecting under general supervision? Which security team would you prefer to manage? Did the Disney description make you imagine yourself in the role? Did it create a spark of desire to do that job? Did you imagine how rewarding it would be to protect the Magic at the happiest place on Earth? The job description from Disney uses emotionally charged words to convey the importance of the job to the success of the park.

Imagine walking into a restaurant with no humans. A robot asks you how many and then leads you to your seat. You scroll through a touch screen menu on your table and place your order. The robot returns 20 minutes later with your food. Everything is just as expected. It asks you to confirm that your order is correct and then collects payment upon confirmation. You finish eating and leave.

I have been to several of these restaurants. There’s one in most cities. The robots are humans that are doing what their job description says to do. Your presence in the restaurant merely sets off a task list that they work to complete without error.

Now let’s imagine walking into a restaurant where every job description starts like this:

Chez Baie de Truite is a culinary haven welcoming guests with warm smiles, welcoming decor, soft music, and tantalizing aromas. We provide a moment of human sharing for friends and family, visitors and strangers, with food as the manifestation of our humanity. We accomplish this through teamwork. Your role on the team is…

I won’t take time to describe the dining experience as there is also a restaurant like this is most cities. There is always a wait to get in. The restaurant staff has been there long enough to get to know regular customers. They have the most and highest online ratings. They range from donut shops to steak houses and from bistros to brewpubs.

I challenge you to take a look at your current job descriptions. Are they a task list that a robot could complete? If so, start updating (or creating) them to build a vivid portrait of the role of each team member and how to play the part. Doing so will allow you to make a cast of characters who will deliver products and services worthy of a standing ovation.

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