When I began my consulting practice, I had no idea just how many organizations operate without the most critical tool necessary to practice sound HR management; the lowly, neglected and often unused job description. Wrongly considered unimportant by many and non-essential by some, a well-written job description is truly the cornerstone in building your HR and compensation infrastructure. Let's take a few minutes to review why they're so important in managing HR and how they should be used every day in HR departments.
1). Impacts Your Ability to Recruit Quality Candidates While Minimizing Discriminatory Hiring Complaints.
When you have a quality job description that truly reflects the knowledge, skills, abilities and minimum qualifications of the job, you're able to develop job related questions that help you and your managers effectively recruit for open jobs. You'll use the job description to develop job advertisements, postings, and interview questions for use when recruiting. Through using the job description as a recruiting tool, your managers will learn to ask applicants objective job-related questions versus subjective questions that are illegal or irrelevant (and can get your company in trouble!).
2). ADA and Worker's Compensation Accommodation.
Because of the ADA, you are charged with writing job descriptions that clearly identify the essential job functions of each job in your company. As a part of the mandated interactive process in returning an employee to work while accommodating their disability and/or medical restrictions, a well written job description is a critical tool.
Having a well-written job description that identifies the required essential job function, physical requirements, and work environment is essential for participating in the interactive process as required by law.
3). Measuring Employee Performance in Your Performance Appraisal Process.
Your managers will use the job description as an objective basis of measuring their employees' performance over the past year and setting goals for the following year.
4). Answers the Critical Employee Question, "How Do I Fit Into the Organization?" This issue is HUGE!! How can an employee contribute to the organization's goals and objectives if they don't understand their role in the company? They can't!
Writing a quality job description creates linkage between the employee and the company by identifying what's expected of them in their job. Establishing an organizational structure with well-written job descriptions builds alignment within and between departments that's positively leveraged to contribute to your organization's goals and objectives.
5). Managing Performance Problems in Employees. Unfortunately, in every company there are a few bad apples. The job description again serves to map out performance expectations and sets the stage for performance improvement discussions and potential disciplinary action.
6). Establishes Career Paths for Employee Development. One of the most frequently cited reasons departing employees provide for leaving to join another employer in exit interviews is that they didn't believe there were promotional opportunities for them, i.e., "nowhere to go." By building job families and career ladders to formalize your organizational structure and internal promotion system, you'll help to retain staff and lower your turnover costs.
7). Market Pricing Your Jobs. With the huge shift in the employment market during the recession, you'll want to keep your eye on the market to track the rebound and return of inflation in late 2010. It's essential to base your market pricing project on job content, not job titles. You'll need well-written job descriptions to be able to produce sound market pricing results.
8). Evaluate FLSA Job Status to Properly Classify Your Jobs as Being Exempt or Non-Exempt. Now more than ever, because of all of the class action wage and hour litigation for misclassified jobs, you must know how your jobs should be classified. These class action lawsuits have cost many employers dearly, and could have been completely prevented had the companies conducted their own internal FLSA audits.
Job descriptions certainly can't be considered "sexy," are misunderstood, unused and/or neglected by many, yet remain the cornerstone of sound HR and compensation management for every organization. Isn't it time for you to revisit writing or updating them in your company? With the huge shift in market pay practices that's occurred during the recession, you'll need to track the marketplace to pay your people right. Now's the time to make sure you're ready....
Becky Regan is the founder and President of Regan HR, Inc., a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation consulting for California employers and purveyor of online HR products. A former Corporate Human Resources Director (10,000+ employees) with more than 25 years of HR work experience in many industries, her team works with private, public and non-profit clients. Becky is passionate about designing HR programs and compensation plans that build organizations.
Flickr photo courtesy of Neil T.
Flickr photo courtesy of Neil T.