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Human Resources: The Importance of Having Written Job Descriptions

Managing Employees and Protecting Your Business

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Businesswoman
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Before you begin interviewing, it is critical to have a written job description in place for each unique position. Having a written description accomplishes many important things that protect your business and your employees.

A good job description:

  • Serves as a reference guide for determining comparable industry salaries.

  • Helps maximizes dollars spent on employee compensation for the position by ensuring experience, and skills needed for the job, are detailed and matched to prospective applicants.

  • Functions as a foundation for developing interview questions.

  • Details information about the position that can be incorporated into “help wanted” ads.

  • Discourages employees from refusing to do something because “it is not my job.”

  • Provides a basis for employee reviews, salary increases, setting goals, and growth paths.

  • Serves as legal documentation that can be useful in the event an employee files a termination or discrimination lawsuit against the company.

What to Include in a Job Description

An effective job description details the primary functions of the job, how the tasks will be carried out, and the necessary skills needed to perform the job. It should anticipate employee growth and potential problems with misunderstanding. That is, a job description is not just an analysis of the position; it should also address potential questions about the position in the future.

A job description should include the following:

  • Job Title: Clarifies the position, job title, and rank or level (if applicable).

  • Salary Range: List starting salary, mid-range, and high (maximum) salary for the position. You should also include information about how employees may be eligible for additional compensation (i.e., sales commissions, performance bonuses, annual raises, etc.)

  • Statement of Purpose and Objectives: A general statement, summarizing in three or four sentences, the purpose or objective of the position.

  • Job Description: A detailed list of specific duties and tasks in their order of significance (the most important duties should appear at the top of the list). This list should cover every activity that will take 5% or more of the employee’s time and include any accountability the employee may have for meeting certain objectives.

  • Description of Reporting Structure: This section provides a detailed description of any and all roles the employee will hold. This should include their own supervisory roles (if any) as well as who they are subordinate to directly and indirectly. If the employee is to work with other employees or departments include that information as well.

    It is helpful to include a corporate organizational flow chart that depicts all positions in the company and their hierarchy.

  • Experience and Skills: Be as specific as possible when detailing the experience and skills required to perform the job. For example, if the position requires the use of a computer, list the type of software or hardware used to perform the job.

  • Description of Ideal Candidate: Detail other strengths needed to perform the job such as “ability to work with tight deadlines and multiple bosses.”

  • Work Location and Schedule: List the physical location of the job, the days and hours of the position, and include any potential overtime that may be required to perform the job..

An Important Feature to Put in Every Job Description: “And Other Duties as Assigned”

The ideal situation for an employer involves hiring highly motivated and skilled employees who are eager to do more than just their assigned tasks. Employees who ask for more work when they find free time on their hands, or that are interested in learning new skills, can be invaluable to small businesses. But not all workers are dedicated to their jobs or the companies that write their paychecks. Employees who refuse to do more than their job description specifically states can create avoidable headaches for their employers.

By including “and other duties as assigned” to a job description, the employer can add new tasks to the position as are needed. In some cases, it may be beneficial to clarify beyond the generic “other duties” and be more descriptive. For example, “other clerical duties,” or “other duties as assigned by (a particular department of position).”

Paying higher salaries does not always equate with better job performance. Employers and their workers always get along better when what is expected in an employee’s job performance is detailed in writing.

Sources:

“Manage Employees.” The Small Business Administration. March 31, 2008.

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