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11 reasons why job descriptions are key to your business

Opinion New! Written by John Berry on 5th August 2017. Reading time: 2 minutes

Job DescriptionsBe honest. Writing job descriptions for all staff is just not high on your ‘to do’ list. And yet that one document set is probably the most important to your firm.

It’s only when managers come to rely on a job description at some point of impending opportunity or catastrophe that the importance of that simple document becomes apparent. And those JDs that are written without expert input are usually a list of duties, rendering them pretty useless.

Here’s why the JD matters

Here are 11 areas where JDs are critical to management success - 11 good reasons why, right now, you should write JDs for all.

Defining the job for the job holder

Fundamental! The JD is the formal way of telling the jobholder how their manager expects them to contribute to the organisation. The importance of this is obvious.

Recruitment

The JD becomes a selling document, informing candidates of the opportunity before them for improved responsibility and personal growth.

Selection

If there’s a JD, the interviewing managers know the competencies and behaviours needed and hence what to select for at interview.

Promotion and pay

The JD describes how big the job is relative to others and hence defines relative pay. It’s also key to any discussions about promotion.

Staff development

If there’s no JD, there’s no definition of performance. That means no possible discussion about skills and knowledge improvement in order to perform better.

Performance appraisal

The JD defines expected performance. Managers uses this and personal objectives to manage performance.

Redundancy

Redundancy requires that all staff doing similar jobs are in a pool together. If there are no JDs, there’s no objective way to tell who does what.

Succession and talent management

All firms want to foster advancement. But if there’s no definition of who does what, there’s no way to plan moves from one job to another.

Disciplinary

To discipline demands a statement of expectation. Absence of a JD is a perfect employee defence. And that defence goes all the way to tribunal.

Restructure

Restructure involves redefining who does what. If there are no JDs, there’s no start point and any restructure will be built on sand.

Merger or acquisition

Investors value firms for their ability to sustain future profits. Good JDs make the argument that the staff body will do that.

Building job descriptions

There are three approaches to building job descriptions.

  • Ask the jobholder to write his or her own. But it’s rare that the job holder will have the abstract thinking and big-picture understanding to do this. They’ll more likely come up with a list of duties.
  • Ask a subject mater expert to write several for jobs with which they are familiar. This is possible but it’s unlikely that an untrained analyst will write at the required level of abstraction. Again a list of duties is likely because that’s what they know.
  • Model the job. With the right model, every aspect of the job can be probed and exercised. Typically models take a systems approach, identifying key processes, interactions and outcomes.

In reality, all three are needed. First model the job. Then write the JD and with it the person specification needed for excellence. Then invite the subject matter expert and jobholder to comment.

Getting help

No manager wants to write job descriptions. It’s a job that will just not get done. So call us. We’re experts in JDs. We’ve expedient methods and we’ll make sure of consistency.

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