Although the main purpose of a job description is to, well, describe a job – it actually serves a bigger role.  A job description can improve a company’s ability to manage employees. A well-written job description will:

  1. Clarify expectations. Employers need to spell out their expectations of what an employee should be doing day-to-day.  Clearly describing tasks ensures that both employers and employees are on the same page and prevents misunderstandings of what needs to be done and when.
  2. Provide structure. Organizations must make sure that their needs are being met on a company-wide basis.  Job descriptions give the discipline and structure a business needs to make sure all necessary duties and responsibilities are assigned.  They enable an organization to divide and manage roles in a uniform way which increases efficiency and effectiveness of recruitment, training and development, organizational structure, workflow, and customer service.
  3. Enable fair pay scales. Most employers assign pay scales, or grades, to jobs.  A transparent system which provides a “salary range” can make sure those within the same, or similar, job functions are compensated fairly and logically across the board.
  4. Identify skill sets and training needs.Job descriptions can help employers gauge skill sets to understand who knows what, who doesn’t, and what types of training and development to provide employees.  It can also be helpful in succession planning and career advancement for employees.
  5. Set a standard for performance review.Job descriptions allow employers to identify what has, and has not, been achieved since an employee’s last performance review.  Many employers base merit increases on job performance linked directly to a job description as it provides objectivity for appraisals, performance reviews, counselling, and disciplinary issues.

A good job description is easy to create.  Briefly: keep it simple, describe the actual duties, and leave it at that.  Consider the following task identified in a job description:

Monitor office supplies and order replacements when stock runs low.

There’s no room for interpretation of what’s expected in the above.  Sadly, many employers try to wordsmith too much and fall back on corporate speak to “jazz” things up.  Here’s another example of the same job description, but written differently: 

Systemically integrate office material processes and facilitate cooperation and synthesis to achieve corporate goals.

It’s fair to say that we’ve all seen job descriptions like this.  Using corporate speak simply helps no one.  Say what you mean, and everyone will understand what’s expected. Also, keep job descriptions fairly generic so you don’t have to continually update them and so the tasks described are general enough to achieve business needs.  The following tweak to our example would be entirely too specific:

Monitor office supplies on Tuesday afternoon at 2pm and order more when needed using Form Number xyz and then submit to Mary Smith.

As business attorneys, we can help you craft job descriptions that can benefit employees and the company – especially when workflows or processes change, and a job description becomes outdated. Call us today, we are here to help.

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