Why job descriptions are so important

This article was published on https://businessplus.co.nz.

Not all job descriptions are created equal.

Job descriptions or position descriptions (PD) are more than just a document; they are an integral element of an effective HR structure. They summarise what the purpose of a role is, what it is accountable for achieving and how those achievements are to be measured. The tasks and duties of the job description are how a role achieves its purpose.

There’s a common misconception that PDs must encompass every single detail about the role and company to meet requirements, but they are more effective when they are brief, informative and summarise the key points for prospective new employees. Further employment documentation can expand on relevant details and requirements in a lot more depth.

Effective Job Descriptions are important in:

  • Recruitment – by providing further details about the role and responsibilities to recruiters and prospective candidates.
  • Communicating expectations about the levels of education and experience required to succeed in the role.
  • Training, Development and Performance Management to measure and encourage employees’ professional development.
  • Providing organisational information about business team structure and where the position fits; management of any employees; budget control; accountabilities and KPIs.

Christine Whelan, a Senior Consultant at Strategic Pay with an extensive background in remuneration and human resources has provided some excellent suggestions about how to create a suitable job description:

  • Job Descriptions should be concise and reach a maximum 4-5 page in length (even for senior positions).
  • Explain why the organisation exists and provide brief company information along with the purpose of the job on the first page. These details can be expanded in further Employment documentation.
  • Include a chart/image demonstrating the surrounding management and team structure and where this position sits in the chart.
  • Keep job titles accurate, succinct and use general terms that people will understand.
  • Ensure the content of the job descriptions is clear, engaging and easily understood so it generates interest for prospective candidates. Avoid business jargon and include explanations of any acronyms.
  • Engage the current position holder in the revision process to ensure an accurate portrayal of the KRAs, Key Tasks and KPIs. Direct managers and HR Professionals in the business may only have an overview of the day-to-day activities.
  • It is important to indicate the experience level required otherwise there will be a wide variety of candidates who apply. But do be realistic about what is required in a new hire because they need room to grow in the position.
  • Education levels should be set to the minimum level where a person can conduct the job competently. Specifying a graduate level education may be desirable, but is it really essential? Equivalent work experience may be suitable.
  • List the responsibilities clearly in descending order of importance. Be quite specific about these but include smaller tasks in a generic phrase such as ‘other tasks as required’.
  • Clarify specific skills and competencies that are required for the role to guide applicants in expanding on their abilities in these areas.
  • Don’t copy and paste from previous Job Descriptions! Yes it may save time, but it can create issues by accidently including/excluding responsibilities that aren’t relevant anymore.

Once you have created job descriptions use them regularly in performance measurement and continually edit them to reflect evolving responsibilities. That way the position holder will comprehend what is required from them, it establishes a clear outline of the role, and it provides an effective working document for performance reviews that can be updated annually in collaboration with the incumbent.

For employers, writing and maintaining job descriptions should be done at least annually, the same way companies re-evaluate budgets, workflows, and processes. This will ensure the position requirements are up to date and consistent with current industry trends.

By providing us with a current and comprehensive Job Description, the consultation process with Strategic Pay will also become much more effective.  Our initial evaluation concentrates on the purpose of the role (we revisit this regularly); we will consider where the position sits in your organisation; we analyse key areas of the role including specific tools and applications that are used; we also clarify vague terms/jargon and develop key measurables, so our consultants are delighted when they receive good job descriptions from our clients!

Strategic Pay can provide you with innovative solutions for your organisation’s strategic remuneration, performance development and performance improvement requirements. Please Contact us now for further details. 

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