Why a Job Description shapes a Performance Review

This article was published in the May Issue of NZ Management Magazine

When it comes to performance reviews, the job description is crucial for informing individual goals and aligning them with the overall business strategy.

The job description is one piece of the puzzle that is the performance review. It’s there to clarify the requirements of the individual role, and using it in conversations ensures that employees are held accountable to appropriate goals – both individually and on an organisational level. We explore how a job description should be used for a performance review, both as a management tool and to achieve company objectives.

Organisational strategy

Ensuring that the individual’s job description aligns with the organisational objectives should be an important part of the performance review. 

When an organisation determines its needs and how it will meet them, one of the outcomes is who they need to employ and for what role. The job description clarifies what the requirements of the role are, as opposed to what they were, or how they need to change going forward.

Making the job description part of the performance review process is key for checking in with how well an individual’s goals aligns with the organisation’s objectives. One of the problems with ignoring the job description in these conversations is that the goals of the business can be going in one direction, while the individuals are heading in another. Over time, this could represent substantial differences around what everyone is trying to achieve without anybody actually noticing.

Ensuring that the individual’s job description aligns with the organisational objectives should be an important part of performance review conversations.

Individual performance and goal setting

From an employer perspective, outlining job descriptions can seem time-consuming and unnecessary to the day-to-day running of the business – nothing will grind to a halt if a manager doesn’t get round to making an update today. However, when expectations of the role are not clear, there is a potential for conflict when either party sees requirements differently – whether that is because the job has evolved or otherwise.

In terms of underperforming employees, a fairly common problem is that the job description doesn’t accurately describe the requirements and expectations of the role. One of the first things an employee is given upon joining an organisation is the job description. If that’s not up to scratch, the employee is already facing an uphill challenge to meet expectations. Writing a good job description is a skill in itself, and many companies lack understanding about what should be included.

Performance plans and assessments, meanwhile, make clear exactly what’s been agreed and communicated in the past. Ideally, these documents will state what the requirements of the role are, how expectations are measured and whether or not the employee is performing as required. This process usually works better when the manager and employee do this together, so everyone is clear about what’s expected. Who was involved in conversations should be one of the first things you check, as you may find the employee isn’t aware of their targets.

Discussions that centre on a job description allow an employee to be assessed against the tasks they are actually employed to do, and provide an opportunity to check that their tasks align with both their job description and organisational strategy. Informed conversations establish exactly what the role involves now, not what it was when it was created, which allows changes to be made in line with the needs of the organisation.

An accurate job description also ensures that pay and reward are linked to activities that achieve the company’s aims, and provides a solid basis for reviewing and setting individual goals, in line with wider objectives.

Ensuring that the individual’s job description aligns with the organisational objectives should allow for a clear understanding of tasks and expectations that take part of the performance review.

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