Job Descriptions: How to Make Them Work for You — Part 3 of 3

Job Descriptions: How to Make Them Work for YouWe’ve talked about how to write job descriptions and the critical components that should be included. But how do you get the information you need to create up-to-date and accurate job descriptions for your organization?

First, let’s discuss some key terms. A job, can be defined as a collection of tasks, duties and responsibilities assigned to one or more individuals and with the same nature of work being performed at the same level. Job Analysis is the process of formally identifying the most important duties, responsibilities and knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) of a position. Job Design is simply task determination; what specific responsibilities will be assigned to a particular job in your organization?

Job Evaluation, the formal process of assigning a value (quantitative or qualitative) to the jobs within the organization, is not necessary to create effective job descriptions. However, if you are updating job descriptions as a result of a compensation or classification study, you will likely have this type of analysis and it can be useful in creating consistency in your job descriptions organization-wide.

Show me the info!
In any case, gathering job information for updated job descriptions can be done in many ways and from many primary and secondary sources. Primary sources can include:

  • Direct Observation/Job Audits
  • Position Description Questionnaires
  • Individual Interviews
  • Group Interviews
  • Work diary or log
  • Technical Consultation

Position Description Questionnaires can be brief or lengthy, should provide space for employee comments and examples and should allow for supervisory comment (though not changes by supervisors to the employee’s input). In addition to providing input about the current work of the job directly from the employee, questionnaires also provide the added benefit of increased communication between supervisor and employee about the assigned tasks and expectations for the work.

Secondary sources include:

  • Organization charts – for reporting relationships
  • Policies and Procedures Manuals – for work processes and tasks, training, and knowledge requirements
  • Professional Association materials – for standard job descriptions
  • Existing job documentation – for background information

Ideally, primary sources will be relied upon more heavily than secondary; however, when creating a description for a new position, the secondary source material is often invaluable in seeing how other organizations have described the work in question.

Return on Investment
Quality job descriptions will buy you more than the face-value of being able to accurately describe the work assigned to positions within your organization. Good job descriptions can also impact:

  • Recruitment: Not only can you inform applicants accurately about a job, good job descriptions give you an opportunity to sell your organization to the larger employment pool. Creative titles and language in job descriptions are being used to create a brand and serve as marketing copy for organizations actively recruiting top candidates. Be sure to include the purpose of the work – not just the what but the why – in order to engage candidates from the outset.
  • Compensation and Classification: Job descriptions can serve as the foundation piece of compensation and classification plans, but they must be accurate and up-to-date in order to establish internal equity of positions based on duties and responsibilities and to benchmark against other employers, survey data, etc.
  • Performance Management: Up-to-date job descriptions are critical in establishing expectations and performance standards. They not only define the scope of work, but also generate accountability with employees and provide a built-in opportunity to review job descriptions at each evaluation session.

Finally, job descriptions can also add to your employee retention, orientation, succession planning and organization development activities. Overall, quality job descriptions are well worth the effort.

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