Job Descriptions: Five Key Elements
October 16th, 2016 by Susan Reagan, HR Consultant – GA
Many organizations regardless of the size should have well written job descriptions for every position within the company. The benefits include making good hiring decisions, building in employee accountability and minimizing risk. They are a tool worth the time it takes to create them and keep them current.
Employers need to acknowledge the importance of creating job descriptions before the hiring process begins. Detailed job descriptions are essential to identifying employee qualifications needed before they walk in the door for the first day of work. How can you know what skills need hired without first defining it?
Job descriptions are also effective at minimizing employment related risks, particularly those related to wage and hour (failure to pay overtime) and claims of wrongful termination.
As a general rule there are five key elements of a job description that need to be considered when creating the document.
- Job Title, as listed on the organizational chart. Be sure to list the position title, location, the team or department under that the job will be a part of, and the job title of the person considered to be the direct manager or primary leader. Include a short “primary function” summary.
- FLSA Status & Pay. Exempt or Non-Exempt status and pay range or total compensation, with the appropriate disclaimer(s).
- Essential Duties. These core responsibilities are what the employee will actually perform on a daily basis. Make sure what is listed is consistent with the Exempt or Non-Exempt status you have chosen for the role (see above). One way of organizing responsibilities is to make a list of daily tasks, organize them into groups, and identify each group as a key responsibility.
- Knowledge-Skills-Abilities necessary to do the job well. Communication Skills? Verbal or Written? Team Play? Proactive? Organized? Soft skills are really important to reflect on. Sometimes more so than the qualifications. These should tell the interviewer how to draft open-ended, behavior based questions.
- Minimum qualifications & physical requirements, including working conditions. Only list the minimum qualifications requirements for the position so you can apply reasonable judgment and flexibility when making a hiring decision. This makes it easier for the resume screener. What is the minimum amount of qualifications you need met to even both picking up the phone to talk to the applicant? What are the physical capabilities required to do the job? Is there heavy lifting, carrying or walking requirements? If so, how much weight will the hired employee be required to carry? Does the position require travel? Outline the amount of time, distance and travel expectations.
How do job descriptions minimize risk? Is someone questioning Exempt status of a role? Pull out the description and show how the role qualifies by what is documented. Not able to honor a reasonable accommodation request? The physical requirements should tell you why.
Job descriptions are also a tool for managers, particularly those new to leading, to measure what has been accomplished and reflect on what needs improvement ahead of the annual review. When employees fall short on what the job description requires, put some thought into if making a good hiring decisions was hindered by job description inaccuracies. You can save the money and trouble of hiring again, but first getting that job description more reflective of the role.
What’s the easiest way to keep job descriptions current? Ask employees you are about to review to mark up what does and does not apply, and provide written feedback on updates to consider. Marry the updates into a collaborative Annual Review session. Then turn to your HR consultant or internal HR department to update, finalize, and circle the description back out for view and use.
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