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Importance of a Job Description

It's not just for screening candidates anymore. Today, business owners are finding numerous ways to put an employee's job description to work for them.

Provided by
HR Powerhouse

Who knew that a good job description could be such as a versatile management tool? Though it still remains a hiring tool in the most traditional sense--a written description identifying a job by title, essential functions and requirements--a well-crafted description also spells out the knowledge, abilities and skills required to perform a job successfully. These additional descriptions are extremely helpful when it comes to employee training and career development.

A business owner can use a good job description not only as a valuable aid in the job-recruiting process, but also as an outline for reporting relationships and working conditions. A well-crafted job description can also be used for:

  • Performance management. You can use it to set measurable performance goals based on duties in the job description, and then coach your employees to meet these goals as needed.
  • Training and employee development. You can use your employee job descriptions, along with descriptions of possible job promotions, as incentives for employees to pursue classes, seminars and other career development activities.
  • Compensation. Job descriptions can be helpful in developing a standardized compensation program with minimums and maximums for each position.
  • Recognition and rewards. You can use the descriptions as a baseline for performance, and as a tool to encourage employee performance "above and beyond" the job description in order to receive recognition and rewards.
  • Discipline. If you need to, you can use the job description to illustrate that an employee isn't adequately performing job functions.
  • Return-to-work programs. You can prepare for light or modified duty options to allow for a smoother transition from a workers' compensation injury or leave.
  • Essential job function analysis. Written job descriptions have become increasingly important due to the enactment, in July of 1992, of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A well-developed job description can provide details on the "essential functions" of a job. This is very helpful when an employee requests a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. The job description can contain prerequisites for positions such as educational requirements, employment experience, physical requirements, supervisory responsibilities and certificates or licenses needed. Well-developed, accurate job descriptions may also prove useful in providing a defense against charges of employment discrimination beyond the recruiting process.

When it comes to job description, flexibility is the key. It may be wise to create more generic job descriptions that emphasize expectations and accountabilities, rather than specific tasks, thereby encouraging employees to focus on results rather than job duties. A more wide-ranging job description is also easier to maintain--it doesn't require modification with every minor change in duties.


Mary Massad is the director of HR product development for Administaff, a leading personnel management company that serves as a full-service human resources department for thousands of small and medium-sized businesses throughout the United States. For additional HR information, visit HR PowerHouse, an HR website powered by Administaff.

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