Job Descriptions

How Do I Use My Job Descriptions?

A well-written job description is both a key communication tool as well as an important employee management tool.

It traditionally was, and still should be, used throughout the hiring process – from helping you write an ad, discussing it during the interview and being signed by the employee as part of the new hire paperwork. However, the job description should also be a key component to your successful communication with your employees.

A well-written description should identify a job by title, essential functions and requirements, outline the reporting relationship and describe the working conditions, and define the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a job successfully.

Every business owner should have a written job description for each position.

A well-designed job description helps you communicate and manage:

  • Risk Management. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) are becoming more relevant every day with new court cases deciding specifics about reasonable accommodation and disabilities in general. Your job descriptions should provide details on the “essential functions” of a job – the key elements of a job that must be performed successfully. The job description may contain prerequisites for positions such as educational requirements, employment experience, physical requirements, supervisory responsibilities and certificates or licenses needed. Make sure any prerequisites are required for the job to be performed successfully. Otherwise note them as “preferred” not “required.”
  • Performance management. Set measurable performance goals based on duties defined in the job description and then design a plan with your employees to meet those goals. Use the job description if the employee isn’t successfully performing – review it, discuss what you expect, set up a plan to make it happen.
  • Training and employee development. Current job descriptions, alongside descriptions of possible future jobs, can open a dialogue with employees to pursue classes, seminars and other career development activities.
  • Compensation. As you grow your business, job descriptions can be useful in developing a standardized compensation program.
  • Return-to-work programs. Depending on your business needs, having light or modified duty options may allow an employee a quicker return from a workers’ compensation injury or leave.

When it comes to job description, flexibility is the key. It can be better to create job descriptions that emphasize expectations and accountabilities, rather than specific tasks, to encourage employees to focus on results rather than individual job duties. A more wide-ranging job description is also easier to maintain – it won’t need modification with every minor change in duties. It can also lessen an employee’s complaints “That’s not in my job description.” And, of course, every job description should include the statement “Other duties as assigned.”


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