Keys to Building an Effective Job Description Program

Recently, I've found myself enormously frustrated by the poor human resource management skills, policies and procedures that I've seen utilized by many kitchen and bath firms.

The last six consulting jobs I've done have been with three independent kitchen and bath dealers, two wholesalers of kitchen and bath products and one small manufacturer. None of the six companies were doing job descriptions or performance evaluations for their employees. All have 10 or more employees (two had over 100). Today, with some "coaching" from yours truly, all have incorporated job descriptions and performance evaluations into their human resource management programs, and all are enjoying the benefits of these changes.

Defining the Job

A job description is a concise statement of the duties, responsibilities, authorities, relationships and environment built into a job. The description outlines the requirements for performing the work, its frequency and scope. It is based on the nature of the work and not on the individual currently performing it.

To manage effectively, managers must be able to identify the work that needs to be performed, then delegate it to others and control its progress and accomplishments. This requires definitions of the various tasks, duties, responsibilities and relationships of all members of the work group. In addition, the way any organization operates can be improved by using job descriptions for assigning responsibility, delegating authority and identifying individual or collective duties.

There are a number of good reasons why you should consider developing job descriptions for each employee (even if there's only a few of you). They include:

  • Avoiding inadequate, inequitable or inconsistent pay practices.
  • Stopping complaints from employees who don't know what work is required of them.
  • Preventing conflicts and misunderstandings about who is responsible for what.
  • Having overlapping responsibilities and authority that results in duplication of effort and wasted time.
  • Avoiding poor or unqualified hires.
  • Preventing inadequate or poor training that slows productivity and lessens quality.
  • Stopping delays in production.

Almost all of the above have a direct relationship on the quality of customer service that your company generates.

Good job descriptions help in compensating, selecting and hiring of personnel, design of jobs, performance evaluations and manpower planning.

What are the benefits of job descriptions? Job descriptions are used to compare one job to another and to rank them. This kind of analysis allows managers to evaluate jobs for compensation purposes and consistency in setting pay rates among individuals and groups of employees.

Properly drawn job descriptions can help in recruitment, selection and hiring of new workers and supervisors because they spell out the exact qualifications, education, skills and experience candidates need in order to be successful in their jobs. They also help growing companies plan future manpower needs by comparing current requirements with those jobs and skills expected to be important in the future.

Job descriptions also help define performance standards. Measuring employee performance against objective standards should be the basis for periodic formal appraisals of their efforts.

What kind of information should be included in a job description? Following is a sample job description format:

Job Title

  • Organization Unit: (Division, department, location, section etc.)
  • Accountability: (Title of person to whom this person reports)
  • Job Summary: (A short statement outlining the purpose of the job, whether supervisory, technical or administrative)
  • Duties and Responsibilities: (Statements outlining particular duties, tasks or responsibilities. You should identify the most predominant and significant duties)
  • Skill and Education Requirements: (A description of the skills required; educational background, training and amount of experience)
  • Inter-Relationships: (A statement describing the relationships of the job with internal and external people/groups)
  • Working Conditions: (A description of any unusual conditions, if travel is required, usual hours, etc.)
  • Needed Attributes: (Describe personal qualities, interests, aptitudes and temperament the employee should have)

Put these descriptions on paper, and then have both the employee and the supervisor sign and date the document.

Involving Employees

To gain employee cooperation when starting a job description program, first and foremost, top management must support the program, and that support must be visible. Owners and managers must clearly communicate the need for a job description program and what they expect it to accomplish. A policy statement should be developed and communicated to all employees. It might include some of these key elements:

  • The primary reason for establishing the program.
  • The individual(s) who will be responsible for its development and implementation.
  • How job descriptions will be developed (hopefully with employee input).
  • Procedure for reviewing various drafts and final copies of the job descriptions.
  • When and how the program will be introduced.
  • Employee meetings to introduce, answer questions, clarify goals and receive suggestions from employees.

How does the description writer collect information for a job description? Start with the employee. Ask people to keep track of their daily activities (everything). Use bullet points rather than long descriptions of activities. Then the writer does a job analysis that could include interviews with employees, job observation, job questionnaires and employee logs.

Once all of the information is collected the writer should follow the outline described previously and complete each area with short, concise, factual and easy-to-understand statements. The total job description should be on one (no more than two) typed pages.

Every employee deserves to know exactly what is expected of him or her on the job. Job descriptions eliminate surprises and excuses, helping both management and employees to be more productive, improve quality of work and improve morale.