Benefits of Up-to-date Job Descriptions

By Katrina Meigs

The job description is the foundation of all HR processes. Everything from recruitment and training to performance evaluations and compensation all stems from that document. What is put in the job description can create a job posting and performance goals. It walks into a development plan for training you need. From a rewards perspective, it helps us benchmark other jobs.

Updating descriptions is sometimes “the last thing on the list to tackle because there are so many other issues that require HR’s time and attention. But revising job descriptions “is very important, especially when you are hiring people.  Unfortunately, job descriptions often aren’t viewed as living documents. Once completed, they may be relegated to dusty three-ring binders or long-unopened text documents. Experts say this is a mistake.

Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t let job descriptions fall off your list:

  1. Job Postings and Recruiting. Having a job description on file for each position can make creating a job posting easier. A well-drafted job description can help boost your recruitment efforts. Job descriptions help applicants determine whether they are a fit for the position and/or the organization. If the best candidates are applying, then the employer benefits with a well-qualified candidate pool.
  2. Wage and Hour Classifications. With well-crafted job descriptions, employers can perform more market research on the value of that role, translating that value to a competitive salary and benefits package. Further, it can help employers determine the internal value of the role, determining where the position falls in line with company pay structures. Job descriptions can also justify exempt vs. non-exempt positions. A well-written, accurate job description should describe the job’s primary functions, which employers can use to determine whether the position meets the duties test to be exempt from overtime.
  3. Performance Management. A well-written job description can establish a solid set of expectations for both the employees and the employer. Through job descriptions, employees understand what’s expected of them, allowing them to work more efficiently and effectively. Additionally, it provides a structure to ensure that the duties are being handled by the employee, which establishes objective criteria by which the employer can measure the employee’s performance. A job description gives an employee a clear and concise guide for job performance. Employees know exactly what their manager expects from them, which allows them to improve their skills and increase productivity.
  4. Mitigate Risk and Limit Any Liability Through Legal Compliance. Employers can mitigate risk and limit any potential liability with well-drafted job descriptions. Although there is no state or federal law governing job descriptions, employers must ensure that the description is legally compliant. The last thing you want is to end up in a lawsuit over the job’s exempt or non-exempt classification, gender pay differences, or essential functions of a job (and how those functions apply to disabled applicants).  The ADA and many state anti-discrimination laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with covered disabilities to aid them in performing the essential functions of their job. While the ADA doesn’t require employers to develop or maintain job descriptions, they can be an integral part of compliance. A well-written and up-to-date job description can be vital in responding to accommodation requests. Job descriptions should provide accurate documentation of job requirements, physical and mental demands, and working conditions, including whether the employee must perform job functions onsite or remotely. This information should be defined before any employment action to ensure that decisions are non-discriminatory and based on job-related factors.  Similar to the ADA, one of the more important components of a Return-to-Work program is having an accurate job description for each position. Accurate and up-to-date job descriptions can be invaluable to any employer with an injured worker. Job descriptions that outline the essential duties, physical requirements, and working conditions can assist health professionals by providing them with a full picture of the job to determine whether an injured employee can return to work in some capacity.
  5. Employee Accountability In addition to ensuring that expectations are met, well-drafted job descriptions also improve employee accountability. Employers can better hold employees accountable to the position’s needs, expectations, performance, and decisions, while having a solid understanding of requirements. If the job description is not specific, then employees may find themselves performing tasks not fit for the role. Additionally, employers will find it challenging to address performance – and areas of improvement – if it’s unclear what the job entails. With a well-drafted job description, employees aren’t left to question their employers’ expectations and both parties are provided a structure that ensures that the duties and responsibilities are being met.

For these five reasons, writing and maintaining job descriptions must be an ongoing task. In the same way that companies must re-evaluate budgets, workflows, and processes, they should also re-assess job descriptions, at least annually, to ensure those position requirements are up to date and consistent with current industry trends.

Does your organization need help creating or updating job descriptions? Hickok & Boardman HR Intelligence has experienced HR consultants to assist with evaluation and review of job descriptions to ensure compliance with applicable laws and requirements.