A  job description is an employee’s blueprint:  Providing directions to the employee for his or her journey on how to get from starting a job to promotion, increased compensation and job satisfaction.  And that’s just for the employee. 

ob descriptions are also important for the employer. There are six key reasons why job descriptions should not be ignored or slighted:

  1. They clarify who is responsible for what within the company.
  2. They help the job holder understand the responsibilities of the position.
  3. They provide information about the knowledge, training, education, and skills needed for each job.
  4. They help management analyze and improve the company’s structure.
  5. They provide a basis for job evaluation, wage and salary surveys, and an equitable wage and salary structure.
  6. They provide a basis from which to determine whether a disabled applicant is otherwise qualified for the job, and if so, to assist in determining what accommodation might be required.

While there is no federal or state statutes that requires them, a good job description is an important tool in the effective and legal management of any organization. Suffice it to say that job descriptions are essential in running a successful business.

Best Practices

(Source: National Law Review)

One of the most common reasons a job description isn’t used is because it isn’t useful. Therefore preparing accurate job descriptions is the first step.  A job description is only useful if it’s valid. To be valid, it must accurately reflect job essentials, including responsibilities, expectations, and skills. What would be considered an essential function?

Essential functions are those duties which must be performed in the job.  If the job description fails to include all the essential duties, candidates without the proper qualifications might be referred to managers for interviewing or recommended for hiring.  Jobs might also be ranked improperly compared to others in terms of their worth to the organization.  Employees may end up struggling to achieve unrealistic standards of performance.

On the other hand, if duties are inaccurately listed as essential duties, qualified candidates may be excluded or deterred from applying.  Even more problematic is the need for employers to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled or protected candidates that might be unnecessary if duties are misclassified as essential.

Job duties also change over time and an out-dated job description may be of little benefit or could even be a detriment.  To ensure that your job descriptions remain current and accurate, consider taking the following steps:

  • Include the effective date on every job description and ensure that the date is revised when changes are made.
  • Confirm that the job description is current before posting any open position.
  • Confirm that the job description is up-to-date as part of the performance review process.
  • Review all job descriptions on a set schedule.  If this approach is not practicable, consider spot audits. 

Using job descriptions will help an organization better understand the experience and skill base needed to enhance the success of the company. They help in the hiring, evaluation and potentially terminating of employees. And in the case of a misunderstanding between what a position entails and how an employee or manager sees top performance, a well-prepared job description can help both sides share a common understanding.