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Value of Job Descriptions

Question:

Do I really need job descriptions for my employees?  Are they legally required?  We have a small staff and everyone has to be willing to do everything.  Job descriptions will just give them a reason to not do something I ask them to do.

Answer: 

No, job descriptions are not a legally required document, however, they are an important part of compliance and can help protect an organization in a number of different ways.  Job descriptions help define a job by determining and documenting the responsibilities of the position and the physical requirements of the job.  This document is not “how to” or a procedure outline (which can change frequently) but rather what individuals are accountable for in the job.  Defining this in a job description can help by:

  • Providing a clear picture of the job to applicants applying for the job
  • Helping current employees see what they are accountable for
  • Helping supervisor coach to improved performance for employees
  • Help determine appropriate salary levels for a position based on the expectations, education and experience requirements for the role
  • Allow individuals to evaluate the physical aspects necessary for the position and what the work environment is like – does it require heavy lifting, is it a “desk job”, does it involve frequent travel, computer work, phone calls, etc.
  • Allow organizations to determine if an employee can perform the physical functions of a job or if an accommodation could be made for those applying for a job or coming off of a medical leave or workers compensation leave (as an example)

It is agreed, if your job descriptions aren’t up to date, they can cause more harm than good.  However, the positive aspects of a job description outweigh the negatives and can help you in legal matters providing you with documentation on the job requirements and support actions you may have taken.  As a supervisor, take a few minutes during the performance review process to work with your employees and update the job description so they can stay current.  Doing one at a time with reviews make the process a bit more bearable.

Job descriptions are really something that shouldn’t be relegated to the bottom of the “wish list”. When done correctly they serve a multitude of functions. However, we know how stretched the average human resources department (or person) is, and job descriptions are usually a “when time permits” activity. If you are putting off creating or revising your job descriptions due to lack of time or staff, give us a call. We would love to help – dare we say it’s “in our job description”. Visit our Benefits and Compensation page to learn how we can assist you with your job description and other needs.