5 Reasons You Need a Good Job Description
If it has been a while since you’ve reviewed or updated your job descriptions, here’s why it’s important to have good job descriptions. The job description is the foundation of the employee’s functionality for your business - why the position exists. It is the basis for nearly every employment action you would take: hiring, compensating, evaluating, promoting, accommodating, disciplining, and terminating.
1 - Accurately Reflects the Job’s Responsibilities
It’s important to have up-to-date and accurate job descriptions that reflect the responsibilities of the position. It allows for clear understanding of the functions the employee is responsible for performing. Well-written and communicated job descriptions enhances efficiency, as there is not overlapping of job responsibilities between positions.
The job duties in a job description should be used in developing performance management criteria. A well-written job description should show how the position is tied to the business strategic goals and objectives. It is important for employees to understand how their job is connected and aligned to the overall success of the business. When an employee receives a merit increase in pay, it should be due to successfully performing the functions of the position, as detailed in the job description.
You may have employees who are responsible for things that are “not in their job description.” That can pose a problem on a number of fronts:
Has the employee been given additional responsibilities such that the position has evolved into a higher level position? If so, the employee could be under-paid for the work they do. It is not appropriate to significantly increase an employee’s responsibility and not make some adjustment in compensation.
Why have additional duties been assigned to the employee? Is someone else “not doing their job” and it is easier to have this employee pick-up the slack than hold the “slacker” accountable? If so, that is not fair to either employee, and the fact that you are not holding someone accountable, is not being lost on your other employees, thus negatively impacting morale.
2 - Helps with Hiring
Whether is it a new hire into the business or promoting from within, it is important to understand the minimum requirements for the successful performance of the position. The two specific areas are the level of education needed and the prior experience needed. One way to properly evaluate this is to look at the type of positions and job families.
There are certain types of positions that require a college degree, e.g. an engineer. There are other type of positions that have responsibilities that are not based on a specific body of knowledge gleaned from a college degree, e.g. a manager. A job family is a group of similar positions in a vocation or profession that range from entry level to the highest level, i.e. senior executive. By reviewing the job family, it can help you determine what level of education and experience is needed at each level. The higher the level, the greater level of years of experience. Depending on the type of work, it might also require a higher level of education.
Another often-used approach is allowing for “in lieu of”. This would allow for extensive applicable experience to be “in lieu of” a degree or a degree to be “in lieu of” a specific number of years of experience. Taking this approach broadens the applicant pool. Do be specific on what the “in lieu of” entails and apply it consistently.
If you post too high a minimum requirement, you can be preventing some very highly qualified applicants from consideration. A “preferred” qualification can always be listed. This allows an employer to provide a higher level of consideration for that applicant and potentially even justify a higher level of starting pay.
3 - Identifies the Essential Functions of the Job
As stated earlier, it is important to accurately state the job’s responsibilities. However, there is another purpose for clearly stating the essential functions of the job, a legal component. Under federal and state disability law, applicants and employees are required to be able to perform the essential functions of the position with or without accommodations.
It is important the essential functions of the job are identified. It helps applicants who may need to request an accommodation to perform the essential functions. If the essential functions are not accurate, the applicant may not know they need to request an accommodation or they might make a request for an accommodation that is not even necessary. It also helps if an employee currently in the position becomes disabled and needs to request an accommodation. It also helps with temporary disabilities in knowing what could done to help support job restrictions or light duty.
4 - Capture the Competencies Needed for Success
Certain jobs require certain skills and abilities, i.e. competencies. Think of someone who is extremely good in his or her position. Now think about what makes them good – what are the special abilities they have that make them successful? Those special abilities are their competencies. Being able to identify the competencies needed for each position is critical for the success of the employees in those jobs.
Those competencies are what you would be recruiting for when you need to fill the position. You should develop “competency-based” interview questions, so you can get a better picture of how well the applicant has demonstrated those competencies in the past. It is very difficult to “train” someone to be a good listener, or have attention to detail. Those natural competencies a person possesses is what will help them be hugely successful in the position. So it is critical that you accurately identify the competencies needed for the position.
5 - Defines the Working Conditions to which Employees will be Subjected
An often overlooked component to a job description are the conditions that employees will be working in and around. The physical demands of a job are important to list. There may be lifting requirements, it could require long periods of sitting, etc. This is critical information for applicants. This lets them know if they might need to request an accommodation due to the physical demands. The work environment is important as well. It lets the applicant know where they will be working and whether there will be high levels of noise, dust, etc. or if they will work in any confined spaces or outdoors, subjected to varying weather conditions.
Listing the physical demands and work environment can also help if an employee currently in the position becomes disabled and needs to request an accommodation. It also helps with temporary disabilities in knowing what could done to help support job restrictions or light duty.
This is also a good place to list the hours of work for the position, the rate of pay, e.g. the pay range or level, and any benefits for which this position is eligible, based upon being full-time or part-time, etc.