Job Descriptions: They Can Do More Than One Job!

By Scott Delman

Use job descriptions to tell workers their specific activities … but also their part in improving the company’s reputation.

Take an objective look at your job descriptions and hiring practices. Ask yourself if they are in line with obtaining workers who will bring you to that elusive “level of performance” you’ve often wished for at management meetings. Most often, they are not.

Job descriptions are all too frequently written like IRS instructions. They are a list of tasks, requirements, boundaries, and guidelines. Yes, they are “accurate,” but they offer little perspective as to what it means to do a good job and how to be valuable to the company. For example, look at the following description:

Truck Driver, Level 1: Load and unload merchandise, materials, and supplies as requested. Must have safe driving record and CDL license, and be able to lift up to 80 pounds. Supervised by warehouse manager. Overtime required.

There is nothing technically wrong with this job description. It accurately reflects the duties of the truck driver. Unfortunately, it does not suggest the complete scope of the position. It doesn’t address (or acknowledge) the value of the truck driver’s role – only the tasks.

What’s the difference? The dictionary defines a task as “a piece of work done as part of one’s duties.” It defines a role as “the actions and activities required or expected of a person or group.” In other words, a role concerns much more than an assigned piece of work; it has to do with overall expectations within an organization.

Understanding this difference can help make your organization more successful and profitable. How? Just check out another version of the job description we just examined:

Truck driver-Level 1: This is a service position, meaning you are always serving an internal or external customer. You have and are expected to use the authority to make decisions to provide successful transactions and satisfy customers. Being accurate and on time is a must. Each transaction must be handled in a way that positively spreads our organization’s reputation. We keep our word 100% of the time, and we work every day until our obligations are complete, frequently resulting in unscheduled overtime. Working safely (by using good judgment and following all company and OSHA regulations) is required. Load and unload merchandise, materials, and supplies as requested. Must have safe driving record CDL license and be able to lift up to 80 pounds. Supervised by warehouse manager.

Plainly, there is a distinction between the two versions. The employee who works within the second job description has a clearly defined role, parameters within which to function, and an understanding of the organization’s standards. Obviously, the truck driver who demonstrates good communication, customer service, teamwork, professionalism, and client-retention skills will outperform the driver who only delivers freight.

This example of task vs. role extends to all positions in all organizations. All members share common responsibilities (roles) in advancing customer service, effective communication, teamwork, professionalism, etc. Their tasks vary widely, but they all represent their company’s standards to outside clients, vendors and co-workers.

Think about what your workers reveal about your organization … to your marketplace, community, and each other. Is your message truly on track? Do you have the right employees with the right “skill sets”? If not, take a good look at your recruitment practices. Most companies are good at hiring “skills,” but they lack the know-how to hire “ambassadors.” To be competitive, an organization needs to secure qualified, trainable people who will perform at their tasks and in their roles. What’s needed to get there? A strong commitment and a sound recruitment strategy, as well as a solid training program for new employees.

Scott Delman, with 12 years’ experience in consulting and training, is the author of, “How To Mean Business, Water Cooler Wisdom,” and president of ClientKeep, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in strategic development and education. Contact him at 802-985-5600 or Learn more about his book at