Writing and Using Job Descriptions

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 should be 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 various tasks, duties, responsibilities and relationships of all members of the work group. Job descriptions allow any organization (large and small) to assign responsibility, delegate authority and identify the duties of an individual or a group of people.

Symptoms of trouble
Unfortunately, most small businesses don't utilize job descriptions as a management tool. There are several symptoms that indicate that kitchen and bath dealers should incorporate a job description program. These include:

  • Inadequate, inequitable or inconsistent pay practices.
  • Complaints from employees that they don't know what work is required of them.
  • Frequent conflicts and misunderstandings about who is supposed to do what.
  • Overlapping responsibilities and authority that result in duplicate efforts.
  • Selection and hiring of people who are not qualified for their jobs.
  • Delays in production of goods and services.

Good job descriptions help in compensating, selecting and hiring of personnel, designing of jobs, determining training needs, conducting performance appraisals and planning for manpower needs.

The following items should be covered in a job description:

  • Job title, organization unit and accountability. These items identify the job and give it its unique characteristics.
  • Job summary. This area defines the works to be performed. Two descriptions with the same job title and level of pay may have different duties, responsibilities, accountability and relationships.
  • Duties and responsibilities. This part of the job description covers the tasks to be performed.
  • Skill and educational requirements. This describes the skills needed, desired educational requirements, special training and amount of experience necessary.
  • Inter-relationships. This specifies the relationship between this job and other jobs in the organization and outside the organization.
  • Working conditions. These describe any dangerous or unusual conditions, whether travel is required and how much, and unusual hours.
  • Needed attributes. This area covers the qualities, aptitude and temperament required for the job.
  • Prepared by, approved by and date. These are important to include for when questions arise, and for keeping the descriptions up to date.

Getting started

1. Interviews.
2. Job Observation.
3. Job Questionnaires.
4. Employee Logs.

  • Look at the big picture. Don't worry about creating a job description that lists every detail. Think instead about creating "goal-oriented" job descriptions. With this approach, you will determine the major functions for your specific business and how to accomplish them.
  • Think productivity. Job descriptions should help to increase productivity. The results should produce better delegation of tasks, setting of goals and time management.
  • Involve all your employees. If you do a good job communicating why job descriptions will be important to employees and the company as a whole, and allow them to contribute to the process, your employees will help to ensure a win-win situation for the entire process.
  • Update as necessary. Just like your marketing plan and financial forecasts need to be updated, so, too, do your job descriptions. This is especially important when a company is in an expanding or downsizing mode. Both the manager and the employee should review the job description as part of each performance evaluation (at least once a year).
  • Allow for flexibility. In small businesses, there is a lot of "cross-over" in job tasks. Allow for additions, deletions and changes.
  • Use as an important business tool. Use job descriptions to help set fair and equitable compensation programs for all employees. Use them for the all-important hiring process, and be sure to make them an important part of goal setting and performance reviews.