Job descriptions.  Employees want them, managers hate them.

Job descriptions traditionally have suffered a poor reputation among managers and human resources. In fact, job descriptions often end up being ignored. The general sentiment is that job descriptions are time-consuming, labor intensive, and the root cause of many a disagreement (or worse!) in the human resources arena. 

Yet, as maligned as they are, job descriptions are critical to efficient operations, workplace harmony and business success.  A job description is like a map:  Providing directions to the traveler on how to get from starting a job to promotion, increased compensation and job satisfaction.  And that’s just for the employee. 

Job descriptions are also important to employers. Employers who underestimate their importance do so at their peril especially when it comes to compliance in the following areas:

  • Wage and Salary Administration
  • To Ensure Legal Compliance with:  American with Disabilities Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Occupational Safety and Health, Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • Collective Bargaining
  • General Human Resources Administration
  • Organizational Development/Strategic Planning

The EEOC in particular has said that one of the things the agency will look at when determining essential functions are job descriptions written before an employer advertises to fill an opening. Many companies rely on generic descriptions.  A generic job description is not the best way to recruit top talent or defend a company against discrimination claims.

The Courts in fact ruled in several landmark cases that “the cornerstone in the construction of a content valid examination is the job analysis” (Kirkland v. New York State Department of Correctional Services) and “job relatedness cannot be proven through vague and unsubstantiated hearsay” (Albermarle Paper Company v. Moody). 

No job description should be viewed as a perfect reflection of the job. The object of a good job description is to differentiate the job from other jobs and set its outer limits.

Many a job description is rendered impotent by failing to adequately address one or more of the following:

  • How the job relates to successful implementation of the company’s strategy
  • The purpose of the position (what should happen when the employee successfully performs the duties of the job)
  • Essential responsibilities of the employee filling the position
  • Critical core competencies required how to the job
  • Actual job specifics such as pay grade, physical restrictions, job requirements, etc.

The information for much of job description is often obtained through what is called a job analysis. Its purpose is to identify the job, define it within established paramaters, and describe its scope and content.

Suffice it to say that job descriptions are essential in managing employee performance. Regardless if you love them or hate them, every employer needs them.