The start of any good job description is a Table of Contents. If your payroll or other HR system can produce a succinct list of Job Titles, that’s a good starting place. Review then carefully to be sure you don’t have a mix of Job Titles (which will require a job description) and Position Descriptions (which will require the parent Job Description and the child Position addendum.)
- Job/Job Title/Job Description – A single role in the organization as identified by a title, summary of purpose, list of responsibilities, education, experience, competencies, etc., which will be applicable to every employee in the title. This typically includes the title (NOT the name of the individual) who will supervises the role.
- Position/Position Title/Position Description – An addendum to a Job/Job Description that might be applicable to one or more of the incumbents in the job, but different for other incumbents. This addendum covers such things as location, shift, department, supervisor, part time, etc. The position has the same duties as any other position in the title, but will have different assignments that don’t impact duties, etc. While the default position title is the same as the job title, It is not unusual for a position title to be different, therefore it is important to be sure every position addendum is attached to its parent Job Description. An example might be “Local Distribution Truck Driver” and a position title within that job might be “Coca-Cola Products Delivery Driver” and “Grocery Delivery Driver” and “Automotive Supplies Delivery Driver”, etc. It is usually the position title that is on the business card.
You will be using the JOB description to price and grade the jobs. If there are differences among positions that impact pay, such as night shift differential, geographic local pay rate differentials, etc., those are handled as premiums or percent of the base pay, but not as separate jobs. This includes requirement for bilingual skills, unless that skill is required of everyone in the job, as it might be if the job were Court Interpreter.
So when you’ve identified the JOB titles you need to document in your library, you will want to identify the document elements to include. The below is a minimum list, but your specific industry may requires additional elements. Each element will be discussed in more detail later
Job Header Data
Historical Details (job code, revision dates, former titles, etc.)
Summary of Purpose
Five to seven key responsibilities
Qualifications – knowledge, skills, abilities, competencies
When you create the finished document from the completed templates, you’ll want to ensure you don’t fall prey to some of the common mistakes that will cost you time and effort later. The most basic of these is to have the title, latest revision date, and page number in a header or footer of every document.
Now for some brief commentary on the elements listed above.
Job Title – Try to be straight forward. If you’re going to advertise this position on electronic job boards to an audience that doesn’t know your internal nomenclature, be sure to title the job something an outsider applying for it will recognize. If you are going to have several “positions” within this title, make sure the jot title is broad enough to include all of them. If your benefits package is different for Executives, Staff, Sales or Support, indicate which category each job is. Avoid questions or challenges before they arise, and be prepared to defend them. Be careful about “title creep.” This occurs when a title is inflated to sound good, but is misleading in a different context. I once worked with an organization that titled the front entry receptionist (very traditional responsibilities) a Director of First Impressions. They later introduced a vacation schedule that was more lucrative for executives, and included directors in that level. You can imagine the back peddling on that one. Beware of titling something “Senior” unless there is a measurably higher level of work that is expected. Remember there is a difference between ten years of experience and one year of experience ten times. Don’t grant “Senior” status to someone just to get them into a higher pay range if the job doesn’t require senior skills.
Job Header Information – Have a consistent format at the top of the document that includes the salary grade or level, the FLSA status, whether the job is incentive eligible or not, and any other data that would identify relevant groups or benefits eligibility.
Summary of Purpose – Too many times the writer will try to list all the responsibilities, then in the summary find a way to say the same thing in a much abbreviated way. This adds no value at all, and misses the point. Let me give an example. The job you want to document is a Rodeo Clown. So you go to the rodeo and you observe with a notebook, you take excellent notes of what you observe the best rodeo clowns do. They run across the arena, wave a red hankie, jump through a hoop and land in a barrel. These are fine responsibilities to document. However they are not the PURPOSE of the job. The purpose of the job is to distract the bull to allow the cowboy to get to safety. If the incumbent doesn’t know the purpose of the job, and thinks the purpose is to entertain the audience, he or she may indeed still run across the arena, wave a red hankie, jump through a hoop and land in a barrel. But done at the wrong time for the wrong reason could have disastrous results for the cowboy. Knowing WHY the job is there is critical. You can often get past the list of observable activities to the real purpose by thinking about what would happen if this job didn’t exist, or what might go wrong if it is done poorly.
I have strong bias against adding a final statement of responsibility: “Other duties as assigned.” That is a holdover from the contentious relationships between “the worker” and “management” – usually defied with “that’s not in my job description” which implies “you can’t make me do that” and just begs for acrimony. Strive to make the employment relationship one of collaboration, whether the employee is a member of a bargaining unit or not.
Qualifications – Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Competencies – This is where you document the education, years of experience, certifications, specialized equipment, etc. needed to perform the job,. Don’t fall into the trap of listing college degree without being able to document why. Don’t expect it to be your only justification for making a job salaried rather than hourly. If you are seeking a college graduate because concentrated training in the field is critical, that’s fine. If 5 years of experience following on the job training is sufficient, you can ask for a degree if you want evidence of ability to pursue a goal and follow through, but that is not enough to make the job a salaried job. List only those competencies that are required for the job. Strong communication skills are essential jobs and not so critical for others. Don’t over state things in an effort to make the job sound like more than you want to pay for it. This is also not the place to list those requirements that can be handled in the employee handbook and apply to everyone. If it doesn’t differentiate this job from the others, it isn’t needed here. Things like attendance, drug and alcohol free, other behavioral expectations are better conveyed through an employee handbook (although it’s not unusual in a posting to say that the campus is a smoke, drug and alcohol-free environment, etc.) Don’t document a range of experience – such as 3 – 5 years. Document a minimum experience. If the minimum previous experience to be eligible is three years, it is not five years. Be specific.
Working Conditions – While working conditions don’t directly drive pay (more on that on the Hot Topic coming up – Market Pricing), for ADA purposes you will want to document the working environment. Normal Office environment covers a lot, but if the employee will be working outdoors in inclement weather, in environments with excessive pollen, fumes, or similar conditions that wouldn’t be expected by the job itself, it’s best to list these. If the ability to lift, climb, or do other physical endeavors not readily assumable by the description are required, it’s best to list them too. An inventory assistant in a bakery where all the ingredients and appliances are on one floor might be done by a person in a motorized wheel chair. An inventory assistant in a warehouse where stock must be counted on the third tier of a huge racking system or in an environment where the floor is consistently wet might be a different situation. Document so that a reader unfamiliar with the company will know.
Keeping job descriptions current – All jobs evolve over time. Gregg Shorthand is rarely if ever needed any more, some level of computer skills are almost always needed. To ensure your job descriptions are current, they should be reviewed and confirmed or updated every three years. One way to ensure this happens is to ask for a review of the most current description on file whenever an posting is requested (within reason – if your organization is a call center and you hire 15 new people every six weeks into the same job, you don’t need to get the description confirmed every six weeks!). Keep a spreadsheet of titles that includes their most recent review/update date. Each year, those that haven’t been reviewed within the last three years should be sent to key managers for confirmation. To avoid all of your static jobs coming due at once, stagger the requests to one third each year. Earmark the oldest 1/3 of your titles and get them reviewed/updated/confirmed each year. This should ensure that none are more than 3 years old. On the ones that come back with “still current, no changes needed” be sure to update the approved date in the header or footer, and on your spreadsheet.
These steps can ensure you’re always ready to recruit, you can base performance evaluations on actually responsibilities, and are in a much stronger position should you be called by the Department of Labor on any FLSA challenges.
If you find that your job description library needs attention, and you don’t have the time or expertise to develop a document format, collection template, or catalog, Ramsey Associates can help. With over 30 years of job description development training and assistance, we can get you ready for any audit or market study you envision.