I had a question asked of me recently that had me stop and think, because it probably applies to many managers these days. As business improves and we think either of expanding our business with our current people, or contemplate taking new people on, the aspect of job descriptions is often raised, and I’m aware that few, if any, managers get training on how to set up, update and maintain job descriptions.
The manager who asked the question admitted that it had been over four years since he looked at the job descriptions of his team and he wondered if there was some guidance I could give him. Well, here are some tips:
1) Remember, a job description is a structured and factual statement of a job’s function and objectives. It should define duties and responsibilities, be useful in recruiting staff, identify gaps that can be filled via training or coaching, and provide an overview of the functions and activities carried out by the department.
2) It should include: job title and department, reporting relationships, principle purposes and objectives of the job, main duties, key tasks and key result areas.
3) The description of each task should contain three components: the activity (to design, implement, advise, etc.), the object of the activity (stock levels, existing suppliers, computer information) and its purpose (to reduce stock costs, improve efficiency, increase customers, etc).
4) It should be updated and reviewed at least annually, usually during appraisal, and always when there is a job vacancy to make sure the description meets the new needs of the department, and when there has been a significant change in the way the department does business.
5) If you wish to update job descriptions, make sure you:
* let staff know why they are being updated
* involve the job holder in all discussions
* check other people’s descriptions, so there is integration and no duplication when it’s unnecessary
* keep the description in general terms, allowing the employee to show initiative and creativity whenever possible
With change the only constant in business today, you may find job descriptions get out of date quickly, so review them regularly and make sure they reflect your current practices. Otherwise, they won’t be worth the time and effort in putting them together.
Mark Williams is a learning and development professional, using business psychology and multiple intelligences to create fascinating and quickly-identifiable learning initiatives in the real-world business setting. Mark’s role at MTD is to ensure that our training is leading edge, and works closely with our trainers to develop the best learning experiences for all people on learning programmes. Mark designs and delivers training programmes for businesses both small and large and strives to ensure that MTD’s clients are receiving the very best training, support and services that will really make a difference to their business.