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Job Descriptions - An Introduction

Have you ever heard the phrase, “That’s not in my job description?”  Whether said in a joking manner or in all seriousness by an employee who doesn’t want to take on a particular task, it brings us to two questions: 


What is a Job Description?

 

You’re probably thinking a job description is a long, involved document used by large corporations. It can be, but doesn’t have to be. A job description is simply written communication between you and your regular employees, and outlines the details of an employee's job. It can be as simple as a list of qualifications, duties, and expectations, or include as much detail as you want.  
 
Why your company needs job descriptions:

 

Even if you only have a couple of employees, having everyone on the same page saves time, makes them more productive, and ultimately, saves you money.  Here are the two primary reasons every company needs job descriptions:
    
1. Provides the employee with a written descriptive and communicates what will be/is expected of them.  This can be either in the hiring phase or throughout their employment. 

 

2. Serves as a basis for Return-to-Work should the employee become injured in a work-related injury.  (The treating physician would be use the document to understand what is expected and determine whether the employee will be able to fulfill the function.)
 

 

Six Critical Items that your company Job Descriptions should include:
 

 

1. Job Title/Description

 

Job titles are the official names that describe the responsibilities of the job that is being performed
 
2.  Qualifications, Skills & Experience 

 

Job descriptions can help identify particular skills or abilities that are necessary for a position. You don’t expect a painter to have the same skills as a heavy machine operator.  Do you expect that the drywall installer will need finishing experience, too?  Does the job call for a commercial driver’s license, a degree or professional operator’s license?   Is it an entry level position or does the job require someone with years of experience?  

 

3.  Job Duties 

 

A job consists of a group of activities and tasks that employees must perform in order for a company to accomplish its goals.  Listing job duties helps employees understand what is expected of them, but should be flexible to change as needed.  There are many players on a baseball team.  Everyone simply needs to understand their expected role.  If everyone knows what their job is, they’re happier and able to be more productive in their specific role.  


The ideal situation is having highly motivated and skilled employees who are eager to do more than their assigned tasks. Workers who are interested in learning new skills or take on extra responsibilities after their assigned work is done are an asset to a business.  Unfortunately, not everyone is on the same wavelength.  Some workers are only putting in time for the paycheck, and will refuse to assist beyond what they’re supposed to do. By including “and other duties assigned” to a job description, the employer can add new responsibilities to the job as needed. 

 

4. Physical Expectations  

 

If an employee has to meet specific physical requirements in order to do the job properly, it should be stated in the job description.  Are they required to routinely lift up to a certain weight? Will they be expected to be on their feet for most of the day or should they be able to sit at a desk for long hours? Is the job location indoors or does the position require manual labor outdoors?  


An important reason to list physical expectations in a job description is for workers compensation claims. Stating the physical requirements in the job description can help a doctor to determine if an employee is able to return to their position, if they can require modified light duty, working in a less physical capacity or able to return to work at all.   Employers should always strive to provide as much information to the treating physician about the expected job requirements as possible.  

 

5. Work Schedule

 

Do all of your employees work the same schedule, or do some report for work earlier or later than others? List the days and hours of the position, or if the position is on a rotating work schedule, include the hours that the employee may be required to work. Include any potential overtime that may be required to perform the job, such as holiday season, inventory, or job time lost due to inclement weather.

 

6. Company Structure   

 

Every workplace has some sort of structure or ranking order, even if it’s unspoken. A company structure is simply an arrangement or ladder, in which the employees at one level report to the supervisors or managers who are at the level above them.  If the new guy has a question, does he know who to ask? If the boss isn’t around, who’s in charge?   A successful company structure defines each employee's job and how it fits within the overall system. This gives the employee the ability to see where they fit on the company ladder.
 
Yearly Updates

 

Job descriptions don’t need to be written in stone.  After all, company needs and goals can change from year to year. The way you do things today may change year over year.  Employees become more skilled and may be ready for more experience, or you may expand and add more positions.  Update your employees’ job descriptions every year, to coincide with their annual performance review. 
 

 

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