Benefits and Compensation

Performance Problem—Blame the Job Description?

Well-written and effectively developed job descriptions are communication tools that allow both employees and candidates to clearly understand the expectations of the role, its essential duties, competencies, and responsibilities, along with the required educational credentials and experience, says Kennedy.

Kennedy is the principal consultant of MAKHR Consulting, LLC, and author of the career coaching book Finding the Right Job; A Step-By-Step Approach. She made her suggestions at a recent webinar sponsored by BLR®.

Job Descriptions Reflect the Core Values

Integrate the organization’s core values into the job description in order to ensure behavioral accountability and commitment to the mission and vision, says Kennedy.

This builds alignment from the beginning between employees and the organization’s strategic direction.

A Living, Evolving Tool

A well-documented job description is a living, evolving tool that reflects the current needs of the position. As systems and processes change and evolve, and that happens often these days, the job description must be altered to reflect those changes.

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Open Position Is an Opportunity

An open position is an opportunity, says Kennedy, but not just for reviewing the job description. It’s a time to make a broader inquiry.

  • Do you still need a person in this job?
  • Might the job be split to give other employees new responsibilities?
  • Have technological changes made the job more or less important? More or less challenging?
  • Have other changes taken place, for example, is there now a social media component to the job? (Must this person blog? Tweet?)
  • Are there changes in company structure, location, or other factors that might affect this job?

Review the Position’s Classification

Another important part of your review is to reevaluate the job’s classification, that is, whether the job is exempt or nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If you pay careful attention to this issue, says Kennedy, you’re less likely to be tripped up by overtime judgments and suits.

Many jobs have changed classification due to technology, and the change happens in both directions. In some jobs, computers have taken over the decision-making roles that made the jobs exempt, while in others, employees who never used complex technology now do.

In any event, it is best to figure out classification issues before hiring the new person. Kennedy has had clients who got involved in lawsuits by employees claiming overtime. Their job descriptions said “exempt,” but their duties say “nonexempt.”

Involve Employees

If there is a departing employee or other incumbents in the same job, give them a chance to respond and ask questions about the revised job description.


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Some Key Benefits Job Descriptions Offer

Recruitment. Once you have the job description you can post it internally and externally or use it as the basis of your posting. A good job description will discourage unqualified people and encourage qualified ones.

Retention. With the right person in the right job, retention will stay high.

Compensation. Job descriptions are the basis for doing your job evaluations so you know what the value of the job is and how much you should be paying.

Performance Evaluation. A good job description leads smoothly in objective setting and the evaluation process, says Kennedy.

Workforce analysis.  Your strategic HR planning begins with the job description. Current status, long-term needs, and gap analysis all depend on accurate job descriptions.

Succession planning. Where does each job fit in your succession planning process? Do jobs need to be revised so they make more sense in the development of high- potential employees?

Training and development. Similarly, what training and development activities are appropriate for the person in this job? What helps the person to be ready for the next job?

In tomorrow’s Advisor, Kennedy’s take on legal issues related to job descriptions, plus an introduction to BLR’s popular SmartJobs job description program.


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