The Benefits of Job Descriptions

Why voices calling them obsolete are wrong

Job descriptions have been around for a long time and are being used in many processes from hiring to organizational design. But the voices calling them obsolete are becoming louder. Their criticism is correct as long as they refer to badly managed and badly written job descriptions. But why compare with the worst case? Well managed job descriptions on the contrary will support important issues such as employee experience and even productivity.

Everyone knows job descriptions and you will probably have one, too. They are written statements of the duties, responsibilities, reporting lines and required qualifications of a particular job. When have you looked at your job description for the last time? Their usage has become increasingly under scrutiny.

Writing a good job description needs effort and expertise and line managers are happy to put them on the bottom of their priority list. Which is not surprising per se because in a fast-paced and changing environment they become quickly outdated. Employees’ tasks change quicker than any manager finds time to update their job descriptions. Additionally, employees are being asked to innovate and do things in new ways. If you work “outside the box” then the box becomes basically useless.

These are good reasons to not use bad job descriptions. But it does not invalidate using good job descriptions. In this series of three articles, we provide an overview of what you can get out of them, which items should be included and how to write them. You will be rewarded with an easily accessible tool to improve the whole employee journey, make HR work more efficient and even raise productivity throughout an entire organization.

Where do good job descriptions provide tangible benefits?

 

Job descriptions improve recruitingRecruiting

One function of job descriptions is summarizing the tasks and responsibilities of a position. Therefore, job descriptions are the perfect template to create job ads (careful, those are still two different things). You will save time and be more precise. The reader of a job ad will get a realistic picture of the job and the expectations. This helps filtering the candidates. The candidates hired know what they are signing up for and are more likely to stay within the role once they have started. A job description doesn’t only make it quicker to write a job ad but also to find better candidates.

Performance Management

Knowing what is expected in a position is not only helpful for new candidates. It is also valuable for people who already hold a position. Well written job descriptions help employees to understand what is expected from them. Their managers will have it easier to formulate targets which match the employee’s reality and measure the success in reaching those targets. Both manager and employee know what they will be talking about in performance reviews. It’s necessary to keep job descriptions up to date but the benefit is clearly higher than the investment.

Job descriptions improve learning and developmentLearning & Development

Being aware of what is expected in a job will enable employees to better target their learning and development efforts.  This is as much valid to become more successful in the current role as it is to make a career step. If job descriptions are aligned with the career paths in your company, then employees receive transparency about the abilities they need to develop to qualify for a new role. That in turn also helps HR professionals to plan L&D activities throughout the organization.

Compensation

Job descriptions should also be used to determine an appropriate salary level for a position. After all, they include specific expectations, Job descriptions facilitate compensation managementeducation, and experience requirements. This both sides at the table when discussing remuneration. On top of it, it enables an organization to compare jobs internally and externally. A company can benchmark the different levels of compensation and adjust if necessary. Transparency and comparability in the field of compensation – together with non-biased job descriptions – are the base for pay equity.

Job descriptions help in organization designFuture-Proof Your Organization

Having an overview of the (real) roles in your organization today and comparing them to your future needs, enables you to take the right steps early on to ensure future success. How many employees will you need in a specific job family to make your business strategy successful? Looking at your job architecture and job descriptions you will be able to determine the exact number today and know when to start recruiting or upskilling existent staff.

Job descriptions help DE&IDiversity & Inclusion

Job descriptions should also include physical characteristics considered necessary for a position or the work environment. And, simultaneously, which ones are not. Therefore, it allows organizations to determine if an employee can perform the physical functions of a job without discriminating anyone. It will also be easier to verify if any accommodation can be made for those applying for a job or coming off a medical leave. The increased transparency will help employees in succeeding in their role and help organizations to support their employees.

 

Any company can achieve these benefits with a tool that is most likely already existent in an organization. It is necessary to put effort into writing job descriptions which depict a realistic image and keep them up to date. But that is a minor investment compared to the outcome. It is also less time-consuming than expected once you know what you should write about in a job description. Next up in our series are the key elements of a job description.