Are job descriptions really necessary?

Are job descriptions really necessary? When managing someone, I have to explain what needs to be done anyway. Why bother with all the work of writing a job description?

Here is a test to see how serious you are about successfully taking your business to the next level. Are you:

I hope you answered yes to the first five questions but if you answered yes to the last question, it will be very difficult for you to accomplish your goals for success. When you consider the cost of salaries, training and benefits, payroll costs are the single most expensive investment you have for your business. Isn’t it absolutely vital that you get the maximum return on that investment?

If you are truly serious about growing your business profitably, job descriptions are an essential ingredient for making it happen. Job descriptions will:

In today’s marketplace you need to capitalize on every advantage possible. A better job of hiring, developing and retaining your top people will definitely give your business a competitive advantage. You need to build a competent, stable, well-led workforce to gain that competitive advantage and a job description helps get it done.

The job description portrays a picture of the job. It includes in clear language the job’s major functions or duties, responsibilities and/or other critical features, such as skills, qualifications and working conditions. It clearly defines what responsibilities the individual will be performing, not how they will perform them. How to is contained in a procedures manual.

Job descriptions provide many benefits for:

Recruiting: In order to hire the right person the first time a job description is the key component. It is the blueprint of exactly what the position looks like. It ensures that everyone in the hiring process is clear with respect to what the job requires. At this stage it is also valuable in writing the classified ad for the position.

Interviewing: The formal interview is a perfect opportunity to share the job description with the candidate. This gives them a very clear picture of what the position entails and provides an opportunity to decide if this is the job they are seeking. Having them read the job description during the interview opens up the discussion about what functions they can and cannot do early on. It may even help you and/or the candidate decide that they are not the right person for the position. This exercise will help eliminate problems later on.

Training: A clear definition of the tasks and skills is necessary to determine the individual’s need for training. If there were things that the candidate indicated they could not do during the interviewing process, this is the time to develop an individual training program to overcome these weaknesses.

Managing: A job description is the basis for checking employee performance. It provides the foundation or benchmark for the performance evaluation process, the guidelines for delegation of work and for preventing overlap in duties and responsibilities. Job descriptions are essential in clarifying the roles and responsibilities and the standards of performance so that everyone can agree upon them in the workplace. An accurate job description is key to effective communication between manager and employee.

But keep the Job Descriptions current
Because job descriptions (and other forms of job documentation) are important, they have the potential to become the subject of contention, including grievances or litigation. Accordingly, it is critical that accuracy be maintained. To ensure this, you should have a plan for reviewing them regularly. Some jobs are dynamic, changing rapidly and extensively due to technological or organizational considerations. These job descriptions in particular should be reviewed often. Even when multiple persons in a department perform similar jobs, create unique job descriptions that correctly reflect their specific duties since there may be differences.

The bottom line is that if you truly desire to take your business to the next level profitably, then you must take advantage of everything that can make that happen. Job descriptions are an easy but necessary step to help reach your goals. Everyday you put off getting job descriptions in place, you are losing your competitive advantage. In today’s marketplace, you cannot afford to have that happen.

Debra Thompson, President of TG & Associates, Tucson, AZ is an international speaker, author and consultant. Her company specializes in helping businesses as the “Experts in People Solutions.” She can be reached at 520-751-8922 or toll free 877-842-7762 or via e-mail at Visit to sign up for their free e-mail newsletter, “The Communicator” which provides the latest information, tips and guidance on personnel issues.
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