Compensation

5 Critical Components Every Job Description Must Contain

The California Employment Law Letter (CELL) is written by Mark I. Schickman, and Cathleen S. Yonahara, both attorneys at the law firm of Freeland Cooper & Foreman LLP. In San Francisco.

A job description need not account for every task that might ever be done, says the CELL. Here are the most critical components of a good job description.

  1. Heading information. This should include job title, pay grade or range, reporting relationship (by position, not individual), hours or shifts, and the likelihood of overtime or weekend work.
  2. Summary objective of the job. List the general responsibilities and descriptions of key tasks and their purpose, relationships with customers, coworkers, and others, and the results expected of incumbent employees.
  3. Qualifications. State the education, experience, training, and technical skills necessary for entry into this job.
  4. Special demands. This should include any extraordinary conditions applicable to the job (for example, heavy lifting, exposure to temperature extremes, prolonged standing, or travel).
  5. Job duties and responsibilities. Only two features of job responsibility are important: identifying tasks that comprise about 90 to 95 percent of the work done and listing tasks in order of the time consumed (or, sometimes, in order of importance).
    • The first task listed should be the most important or time-consuming one, and so on.
    • Employers can cover 90 to 95 percent or more of most tasks and responsibilities in a few statements.
    • It’s more important to list what must be performed and accomplished than how, if there is more than one way to do it. Being too specific on how to accomplish a duty could lead to ADA issues when an employee asks for an accommodation.

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Bottom Line

Creating and maintaining job descriptions isn’t difficult. In fact, sometimes businesses use the development of job descriptions as a means of opening new lines of communication with employees. Employees want to be heard, and the development of job descriptions is a perfect opportunity to increase employee involvement.

If employers approach the process correctly, it can even be fun! The reward for management is a useful tool that helps guide many critical employment decisions and serves as an important consideration in the defense of administrative actions and lawsuits.

How about your job descriptions? Any concerns they might not be up to date and ADA-compliant? … Actually, with BLR’s new program, they are.

BLR has now released its collection of 500 job descriptions, formerly only available in the classic, but shelf-filling, Job Descriptions Encyclopedia, in a program called SmartJobs on CD. That’s cause for celebration—your job descriptions are a click away from being done.

And we’re talking about virtually all of them, covering every common position in any organization, from receptionist right up to president. They are all there in BLR’s SmartJobs.


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These are descriptions you can depend on. Our collection has been constantly refined and updated over time, with descriptions revised or added each time the law, technology, or the way business is done changes.

Revised for the ADA, Pay Grades Added

BLR editors have taken apart every one of the 700 descriptions and reassembled them to be ADA-compliant. And now they’ve added pay grades for each job, based on BLR’s annual surveys of exempt and nonexempt compensation, as well as other data.

According to our customers, this is an enormous timesaver, enabling them to make compensation decisions even as they define the position.

SmartJobs also includes an extensive tutorial on setting up a complete job descriptions program, as well as how to encourage participation from all parts of the organization. That includes top management, employees, and any union or other collective-bargaining entity.

Twice-Yearly Updates, No Additional Cost

Very important these days are the updates included in the program as a standard feature—essential at a time of constantly changing laws and yes, emerging technologies. And the cost of the program is extremely reasonable, averaging less than 66 cents per job description … already written, legally reviewed, and ready to adapt or use as-is.

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