Why do we need job descriptions?
By Mansour Albakr, PHRi, SHRM-CP
10 December 2017
10 December 2017
What is a Job?
JOBS ARE THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF AN ORGANIZATION.
Jobs exist because in some way they help the organization to achieve its purpose. The below model summarizes this point.
Jobs are the link between the individual as employee and the organization as employer. They provide the bridge between people and the work to be done. A job exists independently of the person undertaking it at any point in time. People can and do shape the way in which jobs evolve over time, but jobs are distinct from their holders.
Purpose of Job Description
Many people see Job Descriptions as documents for the Human Resources function. There are two key purposes for this document:
Communicate Organizational Expectations
A key purpose of a Job Description is to identify a jobholder the contribution required by the organization. It is fundamental tools for line managers who can use it to ensure that her/his employees understand what they must achieve and the criteria on which their performance will be assessed.
Core Human Resource Processes
Job analysis is the process of understanding a JOB and presenting this information in a format which enable others to understand the job. Job analysis consist of three (3) stages as illustrated in figure 1.
Figure 1: Job Analysis Stages
Principals of Job Analysis
There are three (3) key principles for effective job analysis:
Record brief job details of the position at the beginning of the Job description. Job Title, Reports to: (title of immediate line manager), Business Division , Department, etc.
This should provide a short and accurate statement of why the job exists. One sentence is usually quite adequate, unless the job is really two or more different and distinct jobs done by one jobholder; this is very seldom found. The aim is to state the overall significance of the job from the organization’s point of view. The purpose statement is the answer to questions such as:
In this section record, the significant quantities on which the job has some direct or indirect impact. It provides numerical data, which give a feeling for the scope and scale of the job. Financial useful quantities include annual turnover, operating budgets, project costs, purchasing, etc.
In stating a dimension, the job analyst does not indicate how the job holder affects that quantity, e.g. it would be appropriate for the total company turnover figure to appear in the Chief Executive's and Finance Director's Job Descriptions because each of them impacts on the total business in a different way. Accuracy of definition is more important than exact in figures.
There are some jobs for which no dimensions can be provided, either because the quantities on which the jobholder has some effect seem very distant from the job, or because the figures are just not available. However, this would be unusual in a job of any seniority.
The purpose of this section is to describe the main responsibilities, the areas in which the job is required to contribute to.
The aim should be to describe here the principal outputs required from the job. This should not be a list of tasks. Ideally there should be no more than eight such ‘outputs’ for each job. More than this suggests you are listing tasks.
For each of these Areas of Contribution we need to construct a Key Accountabilities statement which summarizes what the job does and why. These are usually constructed in a way that indicates how the activity links to the desired output.
Best Practice shows that for most jobs between six and ten Key Accountabilities statements will be sufficient to identify all the key outputs associated with the job.
It will be helpful if before embarking on developing these sentences you first list the ‘headings’ for the key outputs and refine these down to a maximum of 8-10 first and then develop the appropriate sentence for each ‘heading’ you have identified.
Qualifications, Experience, & Skills
In this section information should be provided on the knowledge, Experience & skills normally required for competent performance of the job. The key focus should be on the specification one would look for if recruiting someone newly into the job.
The minimum formal education required or equivalent years of experience.
The typical years of experience post qualification to reach this level of competence and capability.
For lower levels of job, it will be possible to be more precise on this than for higher levels as these are more affected by the increasing differentials in the rates at which people progress over time.
Other key skills which are required for effective operation at the level in question.
It is very tempting for jobholders merely to write their own qualification and experience in this section, and not consider what might be the ideal specification for someone being newly recruited into the job. The job analyst may need to exercise considerable tact if the present jobholder is over or under qualified versus the ideal recruitment specification.
Download the Job description template.