Developing job descriptions is an essential part of managing your business from an HR perspective. Job descriptions are the foundations for the development and implementation of many HR programs, including your company’s compensation plans.
Because a job description touches so many pieces of your organization (i.e. recruiting, succession planning, training, legal, compliance) it is important to have a policy for updating them regularly. With today’s compliance driven environment and very real legal implications, it is critical that your company’s job descriptions are crystal clear. For example, if you have a performance measure that is not stated in your employee’s job description and a case brought against your business, depending on the agency involved, you could also face several fines and legal punishment.
Job descriptions (JDs) have several uses:
- Recruiting: JDs are the basis for creating job ads, developing appropriate interview questions, and supplying job candidates with specific information. It assists placing employees in the positions based on the criteria and skill requirements of the job, which is especially helpful when promoting within the organization.
- Conducting Employee Orientation: The JD serves as an introduction for new employees to their position by providing the employee detailed understanding and expectations of their new position.
- Training: Provides the criteria for training needs as well as a path to developing additional skills for advancement within the company.
- Compensation Programs: JDs serves as a reference guide for determining comparable industry salaries, and for developing and maintaining equitable and competitive compensation programs.
- Developing Performance Standards and Conducting Employee Reviews: The JD provides a detailed description of the position and its essential functions which form the criteria for developing performance standards. The JD helps track job performance goals and on-the-job progress. It allows you to evaluate job performance by comparing between what the employee does, and what the job description says the employee should do.
- Setting Goals and Managing Performance: Detailed JDs allow your organization to review existing practice, improve workflow, and to track organizational goals and performance.
- Meeting Legal Requirements: Compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other legal requirements depend on properly developed JDs. The JD serves as legal documentation that can be useful in the event an employee files a termination or discrimination lawsuit against your company.
Components of a Job Description
When developing your job descriptions, it is important is that it is accurate, based on information from reliable sources, and subject to a review process. Creating and maintaining job descriptions should involve employees, managers and human resources. Effective job description detail the primary functions of the job, how the tasks will be carried out, and the skills needed to perform the job. It should also address potential questions about the position in the future.
- Job Title: Clarifies the position, job title, and rank or level (if applicable).
- A Summary Statement: A general statement, three to four sentences, describing the purpose or objective of the position. It should also mention who the employee reports to.
- Job Description: A detailed list of specific duties and tasks in their order of significance. This list should cover activities that take 5% or more of the employee’s time and include any accountability the employee may have for meeting certain objectives. It should detail any supervisory functions, and should also indicate whether the person will deal with customers, the public or only internal employees.
- Experience and Skills: Detail any technical or educational requirements that may be critical or desired. Indicate the use and type of machinery, computers or software the employee will use. Provide some insights into the type of work environment and overall spirit of the organization the employee should maintain.
- Reporting Structure: Provide details on the reporting (who they are subordinate to directly and indirectly) and organizational structure. Describe all roles the employee will hold, including their own supervisory roles (if applicable). This also helps the employee understand how their activities fit into the organization.
- Evaluation Criteria: Be specific and define what is most important for the organization and the employee. The evaluation criteria should promote the activities that enhance your organizations success. Also provide details on when evaluations will take place.
- Salary Range: List starting salary, mid-range, and high (maximum) salary for the position. Include information on how employees may be eligible for additional compensation (i.e., sales commissions, performance bonuses, annual raises, etc.).
- Work Location and Schedule: List the physical location of the job, the days and hours of the position, and include any potential overtime that may be required to perform the job.
Job descriptions should be updated on a regular basis to avoid inaccuracies. How often should job descriptions be reviewed and updated? At least once a year, but depending on circumstances more-frequent updates might be required. Keep in mind that a change in a position’s duties and responsibilities does not necessarily dictate a change in the position’s pay level. Often the same skills, knowledge, and level of responsibility exist. Also the job description should be based on the position and its role and responsibilities, and not based on the person currently doing the job.