Why do we need job descriptions anyway?

You walk into a networking event filled with folks from outside the company and industry you work in.  One of the first questions you are asked is… “What do you do?”.  How easy is it for you to answer this question?  Many times this seemingly simple question is hard to answer concisely.  We start talking about the types of tasks we work on, the people we encounter, our clients, and before you know it we’re presenting a 15-minute monologue while our audience is glazing over.

Why is it so hard for us to describe what it is that we do and what our expectations of others are?  In today’s world of conglomerates, cross-functional companies, and matrix organizations the “what we do” has become much more complex and much less “cut and dry” than it used to be.  Due to this evolving world and workplace of increasing complexity, job descriptions are more important than ever.  Job descriptions serve many critical purposes.  A few of these include the following:

  • They provide a description of the standards of performance of the role for those in the role
  • They outline critical role activities, interactions, environmental factors, and reporting lines for applicants
  • They contain the content utilized by compensation professionals to establish wages for the role
  • They provide detailed information to internal partners, allowing them to understand what it is you do

Due to the crucial role that job descriptions play in today’s world of work, it is more important than ever that your company dedicate adequate time to devise job description documents for the roles within your organization.  From our experience, we have often found that job descriptions do not even exist for many roles and when they do exist, they are often out-dated, lacking critical information, or riddled with inaccuracies.  So, not only do job descriptions need to be present, but they must also be error-free, up-to-date, and they must contain essential components of the job.  Job descriptions are not designed to be all-encompassing.  If this were the case, we would have job description books rather than 1-2 page documents for each job!  However, job descriptions should provide the following key information:

  • An overview of the key activities of the role
  • Scope of responsibility
  • Key interactions/partner interfaces
  • The context of the work environment
  • Reporting relationships
  • Skill, knowledge, and ability requirements for entry into the role
  • Educational and experience requirements for entry into the role
  • ADA compliant physical requirements

Although job descriptions are commonly thought of as an administrative detail or as a “we’ll get to it when we have time” item, these documents play a critical role in today’s complex, ever-changing workplace.  For more information on job descriptions, including how to write a good job description, give us a call or visit our website.

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