05.27.2015

Job Descriptions Are A Crucial HR Building Block

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Almost everybody underestimates the importance of a job description. Most people, from what I can

What can happen when you don't think out a job description....
What can happen when you don’t think through a job description….

gather, tend to think of it like filling out a template. “We need a __________ with _________years experience who can __________. The ideal candidate will have __________…..” You get the picture. That is not a job description, it’s a candidate description. Job descriptions are fundamental building blocks of your company, the organization, and how the tasks and duties are going to be completed so that the company is successful and makes money. Do you want to make money? Great! So spend the time you need to write out what the employee will be responsible for doing for you.

A job description serves an enormous number of functions:

An opportunity to reflect: It gives you a real opportunity to think about what your organization needs, not just in terms of tasks, but in terms of what kinds of people really contribute to making work productive and fun. Because, as I’ve said before, if you get the wrong kind of person, the skills won’t matter; and if you get the right kind of person, a lot of skills can come later.

A template for future performance: Whatever you don’t include in the job description, you may not legally require the employee to do. So this gives you a chance to be very, very clear both in your own mind and with candidates, what is expected. That, in turn, helps you consider what kind of support you can offer this employee to help him perform really well in the position. And even if something goes wrong and you do have to fire the employee, you’ll have documented very clear parameters around what the job was, so it won’t turn into a nightmare of who said or did what.

Better hiring ROI: If you write a clear, thorough and representational job description, you’re going to get the right kinds of candidates. Maybe fewer candidates, but in recruiting, quantity is a waste of time. Quality is what you want. You’re going to spend less time and money recruiting and on-boarding employees. You’re going to spend a lot less time disciplining and managing the person you hire. You’re going to save money on unemployment insurance. And you’re going to get a much better ROI from your hire because you’re more likely to hire the person who will help your organization grow.

Protection against discrimination: Job descriptions can actually reveal discriminatory attitudes you might not have even realized exist in your organization. When you write it, you have to make sure that, while it specifies whether the person will need to lift 50 pounds or set up heavy displays at trade shows, you’re not discriminating against anyone on the basis of gender, age, race, disability or other protected area. So you notice if you inadvertently pop out with “We’re a bunch of young, energetic geeks” or “We’re looking for a guy who can lift a horse.” Unless you’re dying for a visit from the EEOC or DOL, you can take this moment to check your own assumptions.

Part of the problem is that companies tend not to even start looking for candidates until they’re already in trouble and then they just want to get the most qualified person they can, at the price they’re willing to pay…yesterday. So if you have a break, it’s a good idea to just think about how you would write or rewrite the job descriptions of people who already work there, or people you might want to hire down the road. And put some real thought into it. And if you like, we can help.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.