Our experience has shown that sometimes smaller organizations don’t follow established conventions in the human resources arena. One such item is the job description, and its cousin, the performance evaluation. In this four-part series, we will explore the need for each and share tips to make your work easier, or at least less tedious.
Job descriptions are useful and critical for many reasons. Keep in mind that employment is an unofficial contract. You will exchange payment for the performance of certain functions. After all, you wouldn’t sign on with an insurance company if you didn’t understand the coverage, right? Similarly, employees need a good understanding of the position, their tasks and accountabilities; and you, as the employer, need to convey the expectations for which you will exchange a salary and benefits. In addition, as a manager, you need to know that all the critical functions in your department or business are covered and have the ability to measure whether they are being met to your satisfaction.
In the most basic terms, a job description is a list of the global tasks performed by the individual, his/her areas of responsibility and the requirements of the position. But it’s important not to underestimate the importance of having one. Although the process can seem daunting at first, writing a job description is a very good exercise for the manager or business owner. First of all, it’s important to understand the tasks that need to be performed by the individual. Consider what the person will be responsible for doing and list the tasks in order of importance and/or frequency performed. Be specific enough to cover the functions without dictating the “how” of the work as this may vary over time. It’s also a good idea to provide any measurable standards if they will be monitored and used to gauge performance. An example is, “Answer incoming calls by the third ring,” but only if this is a key factor for the business, if it will be tracked and if the individual will be held accountable for meeting this standard. Be careful not to box yourself in with too many rigid requirements that are ‘nice to have’ but not required for the job and that will be difficult – if not impossible – to enforce.
Another important aspect of the job description is the area for qualifications. In this section, the manager should list the minimum requirements for the position in terms of skills, education, effort, etc. Although you may prefer a college-trained person, is that degree of education really needed for someone to do the job? It’s best to consider your minimum standards because you may encounter difficulty in finding enough candidates if your requirements are very narrow. In addition, many candidates have top-notch skills and become loyal, valued employees but they might be overlooked if your requirements are too stringent and screen them out of consideration. Of course, if specific training is germane to the position, by all means, require it. However, in many cases, the minimum standard you set is adequate and you can indicate that the additional training is ‘preferred.’
Thursday, we’ll look at the balance of the requirements for a good job description and provide an example you can use to create your own department or company job descriptions.