Job descriptions: Are they really necessary?

By Jeremy York, HR Field Representative, the Synergy Companies

Most people are familiar with the term job description. It is the document that outlines items such as job responsibilities, experience, education, skills, etc. A dreaded document that most managers hate to prepare or fail to see the overall importance of having such a list. But what most managers do not understand is that a job description is an essential component of a successful people strategy.

First, job descriptions provide clarity and outline expectations. They help employees understand the fundamental framework for their job. Without job descriptions employees find themselves interpreting the job as they see fit, bogged down in a quagmire of tasks that may not be job-related or do not add value to the business strategy. Employees don’t have a clear focus on where they should spend their time or what tasks are the most important if it is not provided in a job description.

Second, job descriptions are a valuable tool in the recruitment process by specifically outlining job duties to applicants. They provide a road map in identifying qualified candidates so that you can hire the best talent. Applicants understand the core responsibilities of a role when they apply and therefore, understand what they’ll be expected to do once hired.

Third, job descriptions assist managers during performance reviews to accurately evaluate an employee’s ability to perform his or her job. Many managers struggle with performance reviews and see them as creating conflict. The job description can lessen the appearance of conflict by providing objectivity in assessing employee performance against the defined responsibilities of the job. Compare employee actions to job specifications and voila, an accurate assessment of performance.

Lastly, job descriptions help ensure legal compliance with regulations such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employers often find themselves in situations where an employee asks for an accommodation based on a disability or argues that he or she is eligible for overtime pay. Job descriptions can serve as the first line of defense when questions arise regarding these situations.

Still not convinced that you need job descriptions? Having job descriptions can be the difference between winning or losing (paying hefty fines and/or penalties) employment related legal battles. This means that job descriptions could save you thousands, even millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements. Whether unemployment or unfair employment practices claims, job descriptions could be your best defense in giving yourself more leverage against such claims.

Jeremy York, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a Human Resources Field Representative for Synergy PEO Services. He provides strategic and generalist HR support to local nonprofit organization leaders and their staffs. York has over 15 years of human resources experience. He is the current director of certification for the Indiana State Council of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and serves on the IndySHRM board of directors as the past president.

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