Section Two - Building the Accountability Profile

Step One: Gathering the Job Information

First there is a need to gather information about:

  • the major responsibilities of the job, including program or legislative responsibilities,
  • the Key Result Areas involved in carrying out those responsibilities,
  • where the job fits in the organizational unit,
  • the dimensions of the job (in numerical terms),
  • the major challenges of the job,
  • the specific pressures and demands of the job,
  • any special circumstances which may affect the job, and
  • the behaviours that are demonstrated in meeting the challenges of the job.

Then there is a need to arrange this information under the headings of:

  • Position Identification
  • Primary Focus
  • Specific Accountabilities
  • Reporting Relationships
  • Dimensions
  • Challenges, Issues and Initiatives
  • Working Environment and Conditions
  • Core Competencies

Note: Careful preparation and organization will make the task easier. Appendix A provides a quick checklist of the questions that should be covered. It is important to focus on and select the highest levels of accountabilities and behaviours for inclusion in the Profile.

Step Two: Position Identification

The easiest place to begin is by filling in the identification information:

  • Position: The official title of the position.
  • Organization: The name of the agency, board or commission.
  • Location: The geographical location of the position.
  • Profile Date: The day, month and year the Accountability Profile is completed.

Step Three: Primary Focus

This section provides a brief but specific statement of why the position exists.

The statement should give the reader an immediate impression of the primary purpose for including the job in the organization. The statement should be one sentence in length and should clearly distinguish the fundamental orientation of the job.

It is important to concentrate on what the job is essentially accountable for.

For example, the Primary Focus statement for the Model Accountability Profile states that the Position:

Ensures the provision of professional advice and recommendations on how Canada can achieve the highest possible levels of employment, efficient production and a high and consistent rate of economic growth from which all Canadians can benefit.

Notice how the statement gives prominence to the result to be achieved, not on any specific duty or task. Short statements are much more effective in capturing the essential purpose of the job. Careful thought should always be given to the Primary Focus statement because it sets the context for the rest of the Profile.

Step Four: Specific Accountabilities

This section defines the critical end results expected of the jobholder.

The difference between this section and the Primary Focus section is that the latter describes why the job exists in general. This section specifies the important end results which must be accomplished (and implies how, and how well, those end results are to be achieved).

Notice that a Specific Accountability statement is not a listing of activities and duties, but rather a broad statement of what the job is actually expected to accomplish.

Notice, in the example drawn from the Specific Accountabilities of the Model Accountability Profile, the end to which all of the activities are directed is clearly stated. Notice how the first Specific Accountability is concerned with the intellectual leadership that the position provides for the organization:

Provides effective leadership to the Council in focussing the research agenda, in managing and conducting research, in scrutinizing and refining findings and in building a consensus across regional, political and economic lines on key issues, in order to develop conclusions and recommendations for policy.

Each statement should:

  • start with an action verb,
  • state an end result, and
  • define the ways in which the end result is to be achieved or the means to be used.

Usually it takes a list of four to seven separate statements to cover a single job. Unfortunately, there is no simple rule for deciding how to split the job's accountabilities into separate statements.

The specific accountabilities of the job should be listed in the order of their importance, so as to provide a relative degree of emphasis for each.

Notice that the managerial leadership provided by the position is number six in the list of Specific Accountabilities for the Model Accountability Profile.

Assures the adequacy and continuity of the managerial and professional functioning of the Council by effective management of available resources and by anticipating future requirements.

This does not mean that the managerial leadership that is expected of the position is negligible, but that elements of the intellectual leadership that the position is called upon to demonstrate are more important. This is a position that is recognized primarily for the intellectual, rather than the managerial value-added.

Step Five: Reporting Relationships

This section identifies the Reporting Relationships of the position.

The position's location within the hierarchy is shown:

  • who the position reports to; and
  • subordinate staff as direct reports to the position.

Step Six: Dimensions

This section records the measurable areas upon which the position has either direct or indirect impact.

A number of items could be included in this area. For instance:

  • the number of people supervised (measured in full time equivalents),
  • the annual payroll of those supervised,
  • the annual operating expenses of the organization,
  • the cost of materials purchased or used (annually),
  • various assets controlled or affected, and
  • any other significant dollar or other values which are measurable on an annual basis.

The evaluation method does not put an inordinate emphasis on «numbers». However, figures should be provided for as many items as are appropriate (probably 2 to 4 items), in order to give the most complete picture of the job.

For example, in the Model Profile, the full time equivalents, the operating budget of the organization, the gross domestic and the operating budget of the Canadian government are given as numeric indicators to reflect the scope of the position's impact.

Step Seven: Challenges, Issues and Initiatives

This section provides a clear, concise overview of two or three priority program elements of the job that represent a significant challenge for the incumbent, or the priority issues or initiatives that form part of these challenges.

The intent is to provide insights into program areas rather than managerial challenges such as resource constraints that are part of the challenge of every manager.

Step Eight: Working Environment and Conditions

This section provides information on the effect the environmental context and working conditions have on the achievement of end results for the position. It is important in considering the environmental and working conditions to remember that it is assumed that all appropriate measures have been taken to eliminate or minimize undesirable working conditions; what remains is unavoidable, deadlines, media scrutiny, etc.

It is also important to remember to select and describe those elements of the environment or work that, because of the nature of the job, are distinguished by some degree or combination of intensity, frequency and duration, i.e. it is important to note those elements of the environment or the work that are recurring, and/or must be endured over a significant period of time.

The elements of the Working Environment and Conditions section are defined as follows:

  • Pressures – the degree of exposure to factors inherent in performing the job which increase risk of such things as tension and anxiety. Pressures related to the job can include the requirement to work to strict deadlines that are imposed by legislation or regulations, dealing on a regular basis with confrontational situations, working within competing priorities over which the job holder has little or no control.
  • Sensory Attention – the level of attention (i.e., seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching) required during the work process. Considered in this element are the number of senses that are engaged during the normal course of the work. Examples include: auditing, inspecting, conducting or attending hearings, reading transcripts of meetings, proofreading, or listening to tapes of hearings.
  • Demands – the physical effort and/or strain on the standard jobholder in performing the job to the required standard and any unfavourable environmental conditions to which the jobholder is necessarily exposed in order to perform the job to the required standard. Jobs may require levels of physical activity that vary in intensity, duration and frequency, or any combination of these factors, which produce physical stress or fatigue. Considered under this element are situations, such as work schedules or frequent travel, whether on a scheduled or unscheduled basis that cause disruptions in family life.

In the Model Accountability Profile, pressures are seen to stem from the requirement that the position has to make judgments that might be unpopular; sensory attention that requires attention to details and demands made on the job for travel.

Each job has some combination of these elements, the consideration in identifying the ones for the position in question is the effect that they have on achieving the results that are expected of the position.

Step Nine: Core Competencies

This section provides contextual information on behaviours that must be demonstrated in achieving the results for which the position is accountable.

These behaviours are demonstrated in the following core competencies:

  • Conceptual / Innovative Thinking - the ability to understand a situation or problem by identifying patterns or connections, and addressing key underlying issues. Conceptual thinking includes organizing the parts of an issue or situation in a systematic way that leads to an innovative approach to problem solving. It includes the ability to «think outside the box», to go beyond the conventional, and a willingness to try out different solutions.
  • Leadership - the ability to perform as a leader of a team or other group, and to mobilize people to work toward a shared purpose in the best interests of the organization. It is energizing and alerting individuals or groups to the need for specific changes in the way things are done, and involves taking responsibility for championing the change effort through building and maintaining support and commitment. Leadership can be exercized as a recognized expert in a specialized field of knowledge. Leadership can be broadly understood as formal or informal.
  • Flexibility - the ability to adapt and work effectively within a variety of situations, and with various individuals or groups. Flexibility implies understanding and appreciating different and opposing perspectives on an issue, adapting one's approach as the requirements of a situation change, and changing and incorporating the changes in one's work.
  • Impact and Influence - the awareness of how organizational issues, policies and decisions impact public interest/concerns, as well as being sensitive to the differing needs/agendas of multiple stakeholders. It is also acting to persuade effectively, convince or influence others in order to have a specific impact or effect.
  • Listening, Understanding and Responding - acting to understand other people or situations. It involves hearing and understanding not only spoken or written information, but also unspoken or partly expressed thoughts, feelings and concerns of others and responding appropriately and effectively. It measures increasing complexity and depth of understanding of others, and may include cross-cultural sensitivity.

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