HR Management & Compliance

Why are Job Descriptions so Important?

Do you have up-to-date job descriptions? Having these can be vital for your company. Accurate, up-to-date job descriptions not only help you to find the best candidates for vacant roles, but they also help you to evaluate current employees. In a BLR bootcamp titled “Comp 101 Bootcamp: How to Effectively Develop Competitive Pay Plans for Your Organization,” Katie Miller Busch outlined just why job descriptions are so important.

The Purpose of Job Descriptions

“Job descriptions lay a foundation to many other HR-related programs. The key is to finding out how those programs intersect, and creating some consistency in job descriptions.” Busch told us during the bootcamp.

Job descriptions can be very useful to employers, employees and job applicants if they’re well-written and recent. “It’s kind of like a menu of the things an employee does in that job,” Busch told us. Putting this together properly allows everyone – applicants, employees, and the employer – to be on the same page.

Why are Job Descriptions so Important?

The two main reasons are regulatory compliance and supporting internal programs (such as performance management, recruitment, and compensation).

Regulatory compliance. Job descriptions play a role in regulatory compliance both for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and for the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

  • ADA: Under the ADA, a disabled individual must still be able to perform the “essential functions” of the job – with or without reasonable accommodations – to be protected. “Often, the issue in an ADA case is determining what job duties are essential. Employers who use job descriptions have the opportunity to set forth those essential job functions in writing – before a controversy ever arises. But, for the job description to be of value, it must accurately describe or list those essential job functions.” Busch explained.
  • FLSA: Under the FLSA, job descriptions play a key role in “exempt” versus “non-exempt” status. Busch told us: “job descriptions help support companies in determining whether or not jobs are exempt or non-exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act [overtime provisions]. If your company is going to rely solely on the job description to make that determination, it is very important that the primary job duties accurately describe the work being performed. If you’re faced with a challenge as to the exemption status, the job description could ultimately be irrelevant if the employee shows that his or her primary job duties are not stated accurately on the job description and what he or she actually performs – what they actually do on a daily basis – does not allow the employer to lawfully classify the position as exempt.”

Internal program support. Besides regulatory compliance, job descriptions are also very practical for internal program support:

  • They allow employees and applicants to know the general nature of the work, responsibilities and duties.
  • They allow both employees and supervisors to connect duties with outcomes and accountabilities during performance evaluations.
  • They allow recruiters to identify the employee characteristics and other qualifications required for the job.
  • They allow compensation analysts to internally order or classify jobs and match them to market information, which helps to establish pay levels.
  • They can be a tool to understand career development and progression, which also supports the talent management and succession planning processes.

With all of these benefits, you can see why it is important to get your job descriptions up-to-date today!

For more information on job descriptions, order the bootcamp recording. To register for a future webinar or bootcamp, visit

Katie Miller Busch is the owner of HR Compensation Consultants, LLC and offers more than 15 years of progressive compensation experience having worked in various industries, including high-tech, loyalty marketing, biopharmaceuticals, retail, manufacturing, and logistics solutions.

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