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Article by: Lisa (Dean) Mamula — View more articles by Lisa (Dean) Mamula

Posted on: February 17, 2020

It's Time to Reevaluate Your Job Descriptions

Too often, most organizations only revisit a job description because someone “new” is taking over the role. After all, we need to make sure that we’re hiring the correct person to fill in all the holes that an outgoing employee is leaving. Primary responsibilities associated with the position need to be defined and not just at the beginning of an employee’s journey.

Just as a reminder to us, HR professionals, a big part of HR’s job is to ensure employees align with the CEO’s evolving vision. As such, job descriptions should align with the organization’s strategic vision.

If your CEO or company leadership revisits strategic plan(s) annually, then you need to make sure job descriptions align each and every year with metrics and compensation attached. If your organization is growing, changing, or evolving, then a job description review and updates will need to correspond.

What’s a Job Description For, Anyways?

In an entrepreneurial environment, job descriptions are sometimes actually seen as a bad thing. Not because it’s terrible to get a role down on paper, but rather – small organizations run towards avoiding the “not my job” phenomenon. This is when employees resort to not taking action because they don’t see it as in their job description. Typically organizations get around this by including “and other job duties as assigned.” We recommend you get more specific and see these as a starting point of communication.

Make sure to include these necessities in your job descriptions:

  • Basics: Job title, location & conditions, FLSA status, position summary, and job purpose.
  • Job qualifications needed to fill the role.
  • Requirements of the job, knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  • Job tasks are a minimum, but we highly recommend you also should estimate the percentage of time each may take weekly.
  • A definition of the functions and responsibilities of a job.
  • Metrics aligned to the responsibilities.  
  • Metrics for the individual to meet overall corporate CEO strategy & goals.

A job description describes the scope, responsibilities, and organizational relationships of a job and conveys how the role fits into the organization-at-large. Additionally, the job’s tasks should align with the goals of the organization.  As business goals evolve, so too should a job description. Review job descriptions before staffing a position and no less than once a year for a current employee – more if there are organizational changes.

While it may be a “pain” or a necessary evil to update job descriptions, it comes with several perks, including:

(Always) Ready to Recruit

You just never know…today’s rock-solid employee could disappear tomorrow or, less morbidly, decide to move on. Be prepared for the unforeseen! Collaborate with department managers to create/update job descriptions throughout your organization. These should be accurate yet concise and include the duties performed, the vital skills required, desired temperament/personality, and a salary range. Get feedback from the current job holder if the position is filled. Thoroughly and accurately outlined job requirements help you post the position right away as well as avoid the “wrong” candidates from – saving you time when you most need it: hiring time.

Help You (HR) Understand the Organization

I hate to say it, but far too often, I see HR and organizational leaders operating as strangers instead of partners. HR should function as a strategic partner ready to implement the strategic vision and addressing job descriptions is a great way to approach this process. HR can gain a better understanding of the organization by going through the exercise of reevaluating job descriptions.

Impact and Align Employees

Often a company moves forward with new strategies or even a culture shift while leaving job descriptions behind. Taking the time to reestablish all of your job descriptions helps you influence the corporate culture and align organizational goals with individuals.

Having Salary Benchmarks

Chances are (excellent) that you will experience dissatisfaction from employees thinking they should receive higher compensation. Taking a proactive approach towards defining job roles and descriptions will help you address any perceived shortfall from disgruntled employees.

(Re-) Engaging Employees Encourage Employee Training and Development

Updating job descriptions forces employees to take a hard look at themselves, what they are doing and where they may need development. A job description that clearly states expectations can point to primary training and development activities that can (and should) be addressed by HR, the department manager, and the employee

Conclusion: Living Documents

Make sure your organization’s job descriptions are active tools! Move them out of the dusty three-ring binders to an active part of an employee’s work life. Job descriptions can and should help keep your employees aligned with the organization’s goals while having the added bonus of protecting your business from the legal implications of an out-of-date description.