No matter what your role is in a company, whether you are an employee, manager, or the CEO: chances are, you know what a job description is. But do you know just how critical a role that job descriptions play in the success of a business? While the fundamental purpose of any job description is to outline the primary duties and responsibilities involved in a particular job, the benefits of a well-formulated job description span far beyond just keeping relevant parties informed of an employee’s day-to-day responsibilities. Instead of being considered a simple informational document or a “nice-to-have”; the job description should be viewed and treated as a valuable cornerstone of any business. Here are 5 major ways that job descriptions can influence the direction and success of your company:
1. Job descriptions communicate the company brand and culture and determine the type of talent your company attracts.
The job description is the starting point to ensuring that you and your new hire are on the same page in terms of not only the job; but the company itself. While any run-of-the-mill job description will include information regarding the job title, role objectives, qualifications, etc., the most effective job descriptions go into generous detail about the company and its culture. When it comes to recruiting the right people to work for your company, the job description should essentially be seen as free advertising and your first opportunity to get top talent excited to work for you. There is no need to wait for a phone screen or in-person interview before bringing up company culture. Job descriptions can be used to communicate your company’s norms and values so that you attract the right people from the very beginning of the recruitment process. Just as outlining the job duties and qualifications allows for candidates to pre-screen themselves for a role, communicating culture further empowers candidates to determine if they are the right fit for your company and vice versa. However, it is critically important that the job description be crafted with care. A poorly written job description could leave you drowning in applications from unsuitable candidates or lacking applicants altogether. And while the job description can excite and attract the right candidate, it can just as easily deter them if it does not provide an accurate representation of the company of the job or uses non-inclusive language.
2. Job descriptions establish expectations and keep employees accountable.
The job description informs all parties of the duties and responsibilities of a particular job and acts as a valuable tool for communicating job and performance expectations. By outlining the job requirements and expectations, the job description plays a critical role in determining employee performance and helping managers set the foundation for performance management and evaluations. Well-written job descriptions ensure that employees know what is expected of them and enable managers to provide effective and impartial performance appraisals. Employees will likely have difficulty meeting expectations if those expectations are not communicated clearly. Similarly, managers may have difficulty evaluating an employee’s performance fairly if there is no clear indication as to what that employee should be held accountable for. With a well-written job description, when an employee fails to meet job performance expectations, their manager can use the job description to reinforce performance standards and provide feedback as it relates solely to their job. Without a well-written job description to back up performance-based decisions, your company risks legal exposure to lawsuits stemming from unfair labor practices, discrimination, and wrongful termination. This brings us to the next point:
3. Job descriptions can provide your company with legal protection.
While providing employees with a job description is not a legal requirement, having a detailed job description for every role in your company can protect your company from a myriad of legal issues, including, but not limited to, claims of pay-based discrimination, wrongful dismissal, and AODA non-compliance. By outlining a job’s requirements and establishing clear performance expectations, the job description can help you validate your employment decisions and, in turn, reduce your company’s exposure to costly litigation. By dividing a job’s tasks into essential and non-essential duties, it becomes easier to justify various employment decisions such as why one employee is getting paid more or less than another, why an employee has been dismissed based on job performance, or why a requested accommodation may not be reasonable given the bona fide requirements of the job.
4. Job descriptions protect the integrity of the organizational structure.
The job description helps define the boundaries and scope of a particular role and prevents employees from running rampant, setting their own performance indicators, creating their own job titles, and blurring the lines of responsibility (yes, we actually witnessed this with a client who reached out to us to restore order.) When jobs lack structure, it leads to confusion, inefficiency, reduced employee morale, and even mistrust of colleagues and management. As previously mentioned, the craft and care of the job description, being the all-important document that it is, should fall under the jurisdiction of one who is qualified to ensure that it successfully fulfills its intended purpose. In other words, a qualified HR professional or HR team should be responsible for creating and managing all of the job descriptions in your company.
5. Job descriptions set the foundation for various HR and management functions.
Job descriptions can play a beneficial role in the fulfillment of various HR and management responsibilities including, but not limited to:
- Training and Development: by outlining the skills necessary to perform a job.
- Succession Planning: by creating a clear path for career progression.
- Compensation Planning: by clarifying which jobs are similar and entitled to similar compensation, and which jobs should be compensated differently because they require different KSAO’s.
- Recruitment: by clearly communicating company culture and expectations to prospective candidates.
- Performance Management: by helping managers focus the scope of performance conversations.
A well-written job description also has the potential to boost employee engagement and morale by helping employees see the connection between their role and the company’s overall success. A well-written job description will clarify an employee’s impact on the company, giving the employee a reason to feel committed to excelling in their role.
BONUS: 2 Tips From HR on Writing Job Descriptions
There is no shortage of resources available to explain the information that should be included in a detailed job description. Even a simple job search on Indeed or LinkedIn can provide you with some guidance and inspiration. However, there are 2 lesser-discussed tips we strongly recommend when it comes to preparing job descriptions:
- Always work closely with the relevant manager(s) and employee(s) to get a complete and accurate understanding of what the job entails. After you have the real, on-the-ground perspective, flesh out the details by searching the National Occupation Classification (NOC) and reviewing the compensation data. Circle-back with the manager(s) and employee(s) to get their feedback on the finalized job description.
- Have new hires/employees sign their job description so that it can be used to validate the agreement between you and the employee regarding their job duties and responsibilities. You never know when this may come in handy from a risk management perspective.
HR Business Partner
Cierra is an experienced human resources professional with a comprehensive background in recruitment and onboarding, contract writing, compensation and benefits, health and safety, and policy development.