Tuning Up Your Job Descriptions

The typical business owner is so busy that some important-but-not-urgent tasks continually find themselves at the bottom of the to-do list. For example, updating each employee’s job description on a regular basis.

In this case, though, entrepreneurs need to find the time. After all, a well-written job description is the basis for recruitment, training and performance evaluations. It’s how employees understand what they’re supposed to be doing. And it is also valuable in the event that an employee raises an issue or concern.

A complete job description typically includes:

– Major duties and responsibilities of the position, including hours, required travel, shifts and location.

– Qualifications—knowledge, skills, abilities and experience—required to perform the job. Be careful to list only the qualifications that are truly essential to performing the job. For instance, degrees. In most cases, degrees can be preferred, but not required, because it is possible to perform the job duties without a degree.

– Behavioral skills such as communication, leadership and time management.

– Physical skills, including standing, walking, lifting or bending.

– Working conditions.

Update Regularly or Regret It Later

Despite the usefulness of job descriptions, few managers make the time to regularly update them, and this can create problems later. An out-of-date job description can do a lot of damage, particularly in situations in which workplace injury has been alleged.

Job descriptions should be updated annually, to coincide with the performance appraisal process. If job responsibilities are rapidly changing within your business, updates should occur more frequently to reflect substantive changes to the position.

The Big Questions

Ask yourself the following questions to perform a job description review.

1. Is there a job description for every position type? Does it describe the position’s purpose? Does it outline the duties and responsibilities in enough detail to provide an accurate and complete picture of the role? Document each activity’s end result and the estimated percentage of time spent performing that activity.

2. Is each job description regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changes in employee responsibilities? What is the review process?

3. Are job descriptions free of references to age, race, gender, disability or any other “protected” characteristic?

4. Is the job title accurate? Does it correctly represent the position’s current responsibilities?

5. Are job functions and performance standards presented in clear, easily understood terms?

Regular job description maintenance will help create an understandable organizational structure and a clear view of the scope of one’s responsibilities.