Job Descriptions – What’s the Point?

Job Descriptions – What’s the Point?

By Emily Toth, Consultant – Strategic HR Consulting

Have you ever wondered what is the point of job descriptions anyways? For People First HR, job descriptions help us find talent that is the best fit for our organization. What else are job descriptions are used for, when should you use them, and are there times when you don’t need one? Let’s review the benefits and drawbacks of job descriptions.

Benefits:

Recruitment – If you have up-to-date and accurate job descriptions, they are readily available when you’re posting a job advertisement. You can feel confident that you will be attracting the right candidate for the job to meet your organization’s goals.

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 delineates who is responsible for what will remove these unnecessary tensions and stressors.

Succession planning – When thinking about the next steps in your organization’s leadership team, having accurate job descriptions, and an employee skills inventory, will allow you to determine whether you have someone in-house to fill the talent gap for key positions (or identify if you will need to look externally for talent).

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:

Too rigid – While it is important 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 discourage team collaboration.

Time-consuming – It takes time to create accurate 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 to keep the descriptions updated. With organizations constantly evolving to remain current and competitive, keeping up with job descriptions can be difficult and time-consuming.

No value if outdated – By neglecting to update your job descriptions, they won’t be valuable to the employee who holds the position or when conducting performance reviews.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.

Do you need job descriptions?

If job descriptions 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, as simple as they may seem, job descriptions 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 will affect your employees just as much as your organization. Employees find value in job descriptions for similar reasons an employer would (such as understanding what tasks they are expected to do and helping them understand how well they are performing in their role.) After all, an organization is only as good as its people!

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