HR in a nutshell 800 x 550How many times, in your work life, have your employers provided you with complete and accurate job descriptions? Often, the answer is “never.” If this is your answer, it means you were expected to do jobs (and presumably were evaluated on performance) without specifics about roles and responsibilities. Not good.
It also means that job descriptions weren’t appreciated for the incredibly valuable management tool they can be and should be.
There’s no more important task in business planning than the creation of complete and accurate job descriptions/specifications.
Incredibly, many organizations don’t have them at all, and in their absence chaos and frustration often ensues. Equally incredibly, the process of creating good job descriptions is not that difficult, so the only explanation for their rarity is that many managers simply don’t understand what they are and what they can do to enhance organizational effectiveness.
Typically, job descriptions detail duties and responsibilities while job specifications articulate what type of person is required to fill a position and what types of knowledge, skills, and education are needed. While separation of the two tasks is fine for professional HR people, most businesses can combine the tasks.
Following on the job analysis process, job descriptions are comprehensive statements of the knowledge, skills, abilities, aptitudes, experience, and educational requirements that are required for a person to perform a job at a high level of competency. They also include the detailed duties, tasks and responsibilities associated with the position.
Comprehensive job descriptions, created and used wisely, are hugely important to your human resources. Plus, they make managers’ lives easier, too. They’re a win-win-win.
Here are 11 areas that job descriptions should be seen, and used, in every organization:
  1. conduct and job analysis and then create a job description for every position needed to get work done. Without the job analysis, how do you know how many staff are needed?
  2. used the job description to write ads when recruiting new staff; if you provide details from the job description, that information should ensure that more qualified applicants apply (saves everyone’s time)
  3. Screen all applicants by matching cover letters and resumes against the detailed job description
  4. Interview applicants using the job description, i.e. work systematically through the job description as a way of learning precisely what applicants know that will enable them to do the job in question.
  5. Probe every job description duty and responsibility and ensure that applicants are honest about what they don’t know; very few  people are competent in 100% of a job, so knowing where knowledge and skills are lacking can pinpoint subsequent training needs
  6. Use the job description to drive orientation sessions, i.e. orient to what the person needs to do every day.
  7. Use the job description for performance evaluation; once you’ve selected, hired, and trained the employee, you can evaluate performance fairly on all duties and responsibilities
  8. use the job description to justify compensation differences, i.e. if two employees are doing the same job but one can do everything while another lacks some knowledge and skills, the person with the better performance deserves a pay differential
  9. use job descriptions to ensure that position duties and responsibilities are current; jobs change, i.e. with technology, so job descriptions need to change, too; they are dynamice
  10. having a detailed job description boosts morale because everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to do on a daily basis; no encroaching in each other’s territory (which is bad for morale)
  11. use the job description to support employee discipline and/or termination. If you don’t have a detailed job description, the legal system will often rule against the employer. Afterall, if you didn’t make it clear what the person was supposed to do, how can you discipline or dismiss?

Writing Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are based on objective information obtained through job analyses. Complete job descriptions provide clear outlines of duties, responsibilities, experience, and other qualification needed to encourage only interested, qualified applicants to apply when an organization has openings. It’s an enormous waste of time to have to wade through 100 applications from unqualified people so ensure that key job requirements are apparent to applicants.
A job description should include a lot of things and should not be confused with job summaries. Job descriptions should be very comprehensive, often several pages long, to ensure that everything a person is responsible for doing is included. Only be doing this can the employer evaluate performance fairly, and only by having such a complete picture of the job can an employee feel secure about what is expected. Often there will be duties and responsibilities in a detailed job description that will point out where additional training is needed; that’s a good thing.
Learn more about the human resource process in its entirety in HR in a Nutshell, an eBook avaiable at all major online sellers, including Amazon: