Developing job descriptions can feel like a daunting task for employers. But not having clear job descriptions for employees can open your company up to unnecessary liability and cause confusion for your employees.
Job descriptions can be used in many different places within the employee life-cycle. When recruiting employees, a job description will help you create an ideal candidate profile, create interview questions, and ultimately find the best person for the position.
Job descriptions are also helpful when having performance and accountability conversations with employees. It defines specifically what is expected of him or her. The job description is an important tool in employee retention, performance management, and training. It provides both the employee and supervisor with documented job expectations.
In addition to these pieces, there are some legal reasons that employers should maintain updated job descriptions. While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that ADA does not require an employer to develop or maintain job descriptions. However, a written job description is considered evidence in determining the essential functions that a disabled individual’s qualifications for a job be evaluated against.
Here is a simple four-step process for creating job descriptions at your organization.
Step 1: Complete a Job Analysis
This doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. If you already have someone performing the job, simply observe their job tasks. Ask them about the work they do. Also consider the job’s purpose on a larger scale and how it relates to the rest of the organization. Think about the job setting, including specifics about the worksite, workstation, and activities. This will help you determine what physical requirements may be necessary for the job. Here are some questions to consider:
- Why does the job exist? Document the job’s specific contributions to the company’s overall mission.
- What are the job duties necessary for job performance? Usually less than 10 job duties are essential activities necessary to the job.
- What is the physical layout of the worksite?
- What equipment is used in the work setting?
- Where are the essential functions performed?
- What conditions are required for task completion? Conditions include environmental (hot or cold, inside or outside, noise level, lighting, ventilation, etc.) and social (works with the public, works under deadlines, works alone, etc.).
- What is the required output level for the job?
- What are the necessary physical and mental requirements needed to accomplish the job?
- Is specific training necessary? Document required experience, certificates and education.
- What level of responsibility is necessary?
- Are there specified time frames for completing a task?
Step 2: Start with the Basics
Employers should develop job descriptions that have clear, concise, non-technical language, and avoid unnecessary words. Examples of job functions should be provided.
The desired outcome of the work should be described, rather than one method for accomplishing that outcome. Avoid using gender-specific language, jargon, proprietary names (Xerox) and ambiguity. Employers should let current employees read their job descriptions, voice any concerns and sign the description. Within the actual job description, an employer should include:
- Job title
- Department or section of the company
- Relationships to other jobs
- A brief summary of job functions
- Duties and responsibilities, estimated time spent on each and frequency of each activity
- The quality and quantity of work expected from an individual holding the position
- Essential and marginal duties
- Special working conditions such as shift, overtime or as-needed work
- Information on the accountability for results
- A statement that when duties and responsibilities change and develop, the job description will be reviewed and subject to change based on business necessity
Note that the term “essential function” should be used when writing your job descriptions. The job description should explicitly state the manner that an individual is to perform the job. Job descriptions should be updated periodically to reflect any changes to the essential job functions.
Step 3: Detail Specific Qualifications
Employers typically require certain knowledge, skills, aptitude, training and previous experience, but should remember that these qualifications might be gained in a number of ways. For example, knowledge may be gained through education, training or experience. Watch for things that could be considered discriminatory. For example, the possession of a driver’s license, could be considered discriminatory if driving for work is not an essential job function.
Step 4: Maintain Consistency
Internal consistency is important when developing organizational job descriptions. Consistent language such as preferred action words and frequently used terms can help create cohesiveness throughout. Following a similar structure for all job descriptions will help managers better understand how each position functions within the organization. Internal consistency may also help ensure equality and help justify employee salary decisions.
Following these four simple steps will help you start building a bank of job descriptions at your organization. And you don’t have to start from scratch. We have created a Job Description Template that can help you get started. If you have any questions, reach out to our People Strategy Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.