Job Descriptions – Not Just a Hiring Tool

Job descriptions can hold a dubious place in an organization’s employment scheme. Many supervisors and HR pros struggle to capture a meaningful, relevant description of a job’s essential duties. One unfortunate tendency is to complete a job description, check it off your to-do list, and then store it away unused until it’s outdated. HR will dust it off when they need to post an opening. Does this sound like your company?

Job descriptions are a critical and necessary management tool within a company. While effective job descriptions will help you hire the right people, they must also support and justify decision-making and compliance requirements under laws and guidelines from legislative and regulatory bodies.

Recently, the Department of Labor (DOL) really shook things up by changing the white-collar exemptions to overtime. As we approach the December 1 effective date, employers are scrambling to comply. As a first step to ensuring compliance with the updated regulations, MSEC recommends looking at job descriptions and the day-to-day realities of the work employees do. A realistic job description will help ensure you have your employees in the appropriate exemption classification and you are compliant with the DOL regulations. Compare the job description to the exemptions allowed by the DOL. Then specify in every job description whether the position is exempt from overtime or is hourly, nonexempt.

It all starts with a job analysis. Duties, responsibilities, knowledge, skills, and abilities. Asking why the job exists will help you determine its essential functions. The job description (created from the job analysis) should then be the foundation for a job evaluation that becomes the basis for determining not only the exemption classification but also a position’s “worth.” You can then make compensation decisions on factual data, which helps you attract, recruit, and retain your employees. Job descriptions can help ensure that your company is compensating people fairly and accurately.

Despite the importance of job descriptions, many organizations do not link them to their talent-management process, but effective job descriptions can aid a manager in evaluating an employee’s performance. By comparing job descriptions against performance and goal progress, managers can determine how an employee is doing during a performance cycle.

The role of a job description is to articulate the minimum requirements of the position, but a new trend is to include core competencies or core values linked to the company’s mission, vision, and values. This helps support the culture and define what it means to be a “good fit” in the company.

Ignoring job descriptions, or not giving them the attention they need, is not good for business on many counts. So, dust off those files, start updating, and make sure you keep them updated on a regular basis. One best practice is to update in conjunction with the annual performance appraisal. It’s a great way to start the new appraisal cycle.

Developing and implementing job descriptions is not something to take lightly. Job descriptions form a strong foundation not only for hiring but for performance management, compensation decisions, learning plans, succession planning, and the all-important legal compliance. Job descriptions that are clearly defined and communicated serve as an invaluable management tool. When viewed as a multifunctional tool, however, a well written job description is worth the time invested.

As a member of MSEC you have access to an online jobs description database. From the Member Home page of the MSEC website, click the logo for CCHAnswersNow. On the next page, click “Job Descriptions” in the right hand column. (It has a big green dot next to it.) You will have to set up an account, but once you have, the tool will help you build a job description. You can search by title, category or industry, find a job title (one that may apply to you is “Financial Services Sales Representative”) and then answer questions to customize it. If you want to utilize this tool and need some assistance, contact your MSEC representative.