Job Descriptions – What’s the Point?

Job Descriptions – What’s the Point?

By Emily Toth, Consultant – Strategic HR Consulting

We think of job descriptions as being important in the recruitment process when posting job advertisements to recruit top talent that is the best fit for our organization.  What else are job descriptions are used for?  When should they be used, how are they beneficial and are there instances when you don’t need to use job descriptions?  Let’s review the benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits:

  1. Recruitment – If you have up-to-date and accurate job descriptions, they are readily available when posting a job advertisement. You can feel confident that you will be attracting the right candidate for the job to meet the organization’s goals.
  2. Clarifies Roles and Reporting Relationships – Have you ever been in a job where your duties overlap with someone else’s and experienced the frustration and confusion that comes with it? Having an up-to-date job description that delineate who is responsible for what will remove these unnecessary tensions and stressors.
  3. Succession Planning – When thinking about the next steps in your organizations’ leadership team, having accurate job descriptions and an employee skills inventory will allow you to determine whether you have an individual or several, in-house to fill the talent gap for key positions (or identify if you will need to look externally for talent).
  4. Compensation – Understanding how similar positions are being compensated in the same labour market will allow you to remain a competitive employer; successfully attracting and retaining top talent. They are also foundational to any attempts at equity in compensation.

Drawbacks:

  1. Too Rigid – As important as it is to have a job description with a detailed breakdown for performance reviews and clarity in job duties, it does not allow much flexibility in adding or removing duties or adjusting to achieve strategic goals. In addition, having rigid job descriptions can create silos and may not encourage thinking outside the box or team collaboration.
  2. Time-Consuming – It takes time to create accurate and reflective job descriptions for all the positions within your organization.  In addition to daily business activities, you may not have the time, financial and human resources, tools or expertise. With organizations constantly evolving to remain current and competitive, keeping up with job descriptions can be difficult and time-consuming.
  3. No Value if Outdated – By neglecting to update your job descriptions, they won’t have any value to the employee who holds the position or when conducting performance reviews. You may be opening yourself up to costly litigation should the job description not comply with current employment legislation, or should an employee be injured on the job performing a task that was not listed in the job description. If your organization does not have the time or resources to regularly review, analyze and update job descriptions to ensure they are accurate; perhaps you are better off without them.

If they aren’t being kept up to date or are not helpful for the size/scope of your organization, maybe you don’t need them. However, job descriptions, as simple as they may seem, can hold the key to achieving organizational effectiveness and efficiency through their links to recruitment, selection, performance and compensation efforts. Deciding whether or not to implement job descriptions not only affects your organization but will also impact your employees. Employees will find value in them for similar reasons an employer would: useful for understanding what tasks their employer is expecting them to perform and quality standards by which they will be measured against allowing them to understand how well they are performing in their role.  After all, an organization is only as good as its people!

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