Benefits and Compensation

The Key Role of Job Descriptions in Pay Programs

It’s easy to think of job descriptions as an HR compliance tool—which they are. But it’s also important to remember that they play an important role in your compensation planning as well.

Today, John Rubino of Rubino Consulting Services explains some of the key considerations—and why you simply can’t afford to ignore your job descriptions or let them grow stale.

Compensation Program Objectives

  • Internally equitable
  • Externally competitive
  • Affordable
  • Understandable
  • Legal/defensible
  • Efficient to administer
  • Capable of being reshaped for the future
  • Appropriate for the organization
  • Attract, retain, and motivate employees
  • Create alignment of employee efforts and business objectives

What Do Job Descriptions Include?

  • Nature of work (duties and responsibilities)
  • Level of work (skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions)
  • Job specifications (characteristics required for competent performance)

Where Job Descriptions and Your Compensation Program Intersect

  • Developing a job-worth hierarchy
  • Identification of performance standards
  • Organizational design uses
  • Salary survey exchanges
  • Legal defenses
  • Job assignments
  • Selection/recruitment
  • Establishment of career paths and succession planning

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Employ ‘Level Cutters’ in Your Job Descriptions

Far from being merely descriptive, your job descriptions can actually help shape the appropriate compensation level for a given position. Here are some examples of modifying words and phrases suggested by Rubino, listed from lowest to highest work level in each category:

  • Interpersonal Skills
    • Uses normal courtesy
    • Explains or instructs
    • Persuades
    • Negotiates
  • Independent Judgment
    • Follows established routines under close supervision
    • Assigns work with limited employee latitude
    • Receives general guidance on work priority with substantial employee latitude
    • Employee works independently
  • Impact of Decisions
    • Restricted to employee
    • Impact on unit
    • Impact on department
    • Impact on organization
  • Hazards
    • Hazard-free environment
    • Exposure to minor discomfort
    • Exposure to injury or illness
    • Life-threatening

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Preparing Your Job Descriptions

Who should write job descriptions? Here are a few suggestions from Rubino:

  • Job analyst from human resources
  • Incumbent in job/team members
  • Supervisor of job

It’s important to be unbiased in your job descriptions and review them annually—they should also be reviewed/implemented after any kind of major organizational shake-up, such as a merger or reorganization.

Job Description Points to Remember

  • Many organizations’ job descriptions are so poorly written or out of date that they fail to attract top talent, exacerbate skills gaps, curb employee development, and reduce retention of high-potential employees.
  • The purpose of the job description has evolved from an encyclopedic resource to a strategic marketing tool.
  • The job description should be a conversation starter—it should give you a sense of the organization’s culture and what it would be like to work there.
  • Think of your job description as a job ad—you want your brand to show through.
  • It’s not exclusively about job posting. The job description is a communication vehicle you can use to clearly define what you need at point of hire and beyond.
  • It plays an important role in onboarding, compensation, skills development, career planning, succession planning and, especially, performance management

Tomorrow, we’ll get some of Rubino’s advice on salary surveys, plus an introduction to the interactive webinar, Assembling a Pay Grade System: The Step-by-Step Process for Getting It Right.