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Importance of Developing, Reviewing and Revising Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are an essential tool that all organizations should have in place for all job titles. According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), a job description is defined as a useful, plain-language tool that explains the tasks, duties, functions and responsibilities of a position. It details who performs a specific type of work, how that work is to be completed, and the frequency and the purpose of the work as it relates to the organization’s mission and goals. Having accurate, up-to-date job descriptions is vital to an organization in order to:

  • aid in identifying the requirements of each position,
  • establishing hiring criteria,
  • orienting new employees to their jobs,
  • setting standards for employee performance evaluations, and
  • establishing a basis for making reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

Well-written job descriptions should include, at a minimum, the following elements, as these elements aid in identifying the requirements of each position:

  • a header with the job’s title, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) classification, and the title of the job that this job’s title reports to,
  • a paragraph describing the principal function of the job and how it relates to the mission and vision of the organization;
  • a list of essential duties and responsibilities;
  • a section describing the job’s supervisory responsibilities;
  • a section describing the minimum education and/or experience requirements;
  • a section containing other skills and abilities that may be needed for an incumbent to be successful in the job;
  • a section describing the physical requirements of the job;
  • a section describing the work environment; and
  • a signature section for both the current incumbent and their manager/supervisor to sign.   

Establishing Hiring Criteria

Having a clear job description and hiring criteria will help hiring managers/supervisors write the job posting in order to appropriately advertise the position, and may make the interviewers’ task of interviewing candidates easier. If interviewers have a clear understanding of the essential duties and responsibilities of the job, as well as the minimum requirements that a candidate must possess, they will be able to create questions and conversations with all candidates based around the essential duties and responsibilities of the job and requirements that are meaningful to both the organization and the candidate.  Asking the candidates if they are able to perform the essential duties and responsibilities of the job as well as if they meet the physical requirements of the job are important to make sure that the organization is in compliance with all Americans with Disabilities Act and its Amendments Act (ADAAA) requirements. However, more importantly, a job description that clearly defines information used in the hiring process, makes it more likely that the best individual for the job is hired. If a hiring manager/supervisor, as an interviewer, knows exactly the profile of a candidate they are looking for, and has a distinct picture of what they want that candidate to be able to accomplish in the job, they are much more likely to find the right fit in a quick and efficient manner.

Orienting New Employees to their Jobs

Even though the job description has aided the hiring manager/supervisor in hiring the appropriate candidate, the job description’s “job” is far from over. The job description, when clearly written, explains what an organization expects from employees in their particular roles through the essential duties and responsibilities. Being new to a position may be a bit intimidating, so giving an employee a document that spells out the essential duties and responsibilities should give them confidence knowing that they are accomplishing everything that the organization requires of individuals who hold those jobs.

Setting Standards for Employee Performance Evaluations

Well-written job descriptions are the root of great employee management. They will aid managers/supervisors in communicating what they expect of their employees by establishing a concrete list of expectations through the listing of the essential duties and responsibilities, supervisor responsibilities, and other skills and abilities that may be needed for the job. Employees and managers/supervisors may also then set goals that aid the employee in meeting those expectations.  By doing this, employees will understand what is expected of them in their jobs aiding in employee efficiency and effectiveness in their respective roles. Utilizing job descriptions for performance management also helps ensure that there should be no surprises with regards to understanding job-related tasks. Providing the essential duties and responsibilities with clarifying factual examples when evaluating an employee’s performance acts as a guide to understand what the employee is doing well and where the employee may need additional training and/or coaching to meet the organization’s expectations.

Establishing a Basis for Making Reasonable Accommodations

Federal law and some state laws require employers to offer reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and its Amendments Act (ADAAA). A job description serves as the starting point for any interactive process as it describes the essential duties and responsibilities and physical requirements needed of an employee to meet the minimum requirements of the job. An employee requesting an accommodation under the ADAAA should be able to utilize their job description to state exactly which essential duties of their job description they cannot perform or physical requirements that they are not able to meet. For example, if an essential duty of the employee’s job requires them to lift 50 pound boxes of paper and they have strict lifting restrictions as certified from a doctor, the employer may then begin the interactive dialogue with the employee about what accommodations that may put in place to help the individual complete their job successfully without posing an undue hardship on the organization and without creating a direct threat to the employee.

All of the reasons listed above are concrete reasons to develop job descriptions for each position within an organization. It is crucial not only to develop job descriptions, but to continually revisit the job descriptions and update them, as necessary. Job descriptions should be viewed as working documents and never set in stone. A rule of thumb when it comes to reviewing job descriptions is to review them on an annual basis. Creating and keeping job descriptions up-to-date establishes concrete expectations which aids in hiring the right employees, orienting them to their jobs, setting standards for evaluating their performance, and assisting both the organization and the employee in the event of a reasonable accommodation request. Ultimately, job descriptions will save organizations time and money and will reduce exposure to numerous types of liabilities in the long-run.

For additional information on developing, reviewing, and revising job descriptions, please contact us at www.NewFocusHR.com

Written by: Patrick McKenna, SHRM-CP


                     HR Consultant




New Focus HR is a human resources consulting and training company that services all organizations. Our expert team collaborates with businesses to attract, motivate, retrain and retain their biggest assets, employees. While engaged with an organization, our focus is to find solutions that improve the company’s internal HR-related practices while increasing results at the same time! Our focus. Your results.