Describe That Job

“A few of my employees have asked about job descriptions. I don’t have anything written but do walk them through their job duties when they start working for me. Why would I want or need anything in writing?”

Your HR Survival Tip

While job descriptions are not legally required, they are highly recommended. I’m not talking about those 6-12 bullets you’re tempted to throw on a piece of paper. A well-written job description can be very useful to you by:

  • Making sure all employees are aware of the specific tasks associated with their job and accountable for the successful performance of those tasks;
  • Having the necessary information and facts available to recruit and/or advertise a position;
  • Determining the exempt (salaried) or non-exempt (hourly) status of the job;
  • Serving as a guide for onboarding, training, monitoring, evaluating job performance, and setting goals;
  • Helping when you have a workers’ compensation claim by ensuring the doctor understands what the physical aspects of the job are; and
  • Establishing the “essential” job functions to facilitate compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and adding protection for your company.

Your job descriptions should begin with a 2-3 sentence summary of the job’s content, purpose, and scope. Think of this as your employee’s 30-second description of their job.

This is followed by 5-8 duties and responsibilities in order of priority, the performance of which is critical to job success or failure. Provide as much specific information as possible, i.e., how, what, with and for whom, where, and specific examples of frequency or average number completed within a specific time frame. I like to see these items written as short paragraphs but with specific detail, such as “create correspondence using Microsoft Office programs.” Detail any type of machines, materials, tools, computers, and computer operations used in performing the job functions.

The “Requirements” must be the minimum levels of knowledge, skill, and ability you’ll accept. You don’t want to tell someone they aren’t qualified and then hire someone else who doesn’t meet those requirements. Be specific, such as “At least 3 years of experience in Human Resources with increasing responsibilities.” If there are things you’d like to find in an applicant but can’t justify making it a requirement, add it to the “Desired Job Skills” category.

“Working Conditions” include specifics about the work environment that might be significant to the performance of the job or to job satisfaction. For example, it may be important to note the noise level, amount of travel, limited space (like working in a cubicle), special equipment or clothing necessary, and safety and health factors.

Once you have a good job description, make sure you and your employees are on the same page with what they are actually doing. This is a living document, which means it doesn’t stay any more stagnant than your business does. Update those descriptions every year to ensure they are current and useful.

While it can be a little time-consuming to first create a job description, it’s worthwhile if you really use it. There are a lot of templates available online to get you started or give you ideas.

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