Job descriptions have been around for a long time, as evidenced by this sample from the 1860’s. But many employers either don’t have them or have let them become out-of-date and not reflective of the actual job duties and requirements.
As noted in a recent BLR HR Daily Advisor article, up-to-date, well-written job descriptions are valuable tools in the recruiting process, performance evaluations, training program design and regulatory compliance, including complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)* and the Fair Labor Standards Act (see previous post regarding the FLSA).
However, like employee handbooks, if you do not commit to keeping them up to date you might as well not have them. What I have found to be a good practice for keeping the job description up to date is to review it with each employee in conjunction with the annual performance review. Request feedback from the employee at that time concerning additions/deletions/clarifications to the job description. Often the employee knows more about what the job actually entails or should entail than their supervisor.
A good description will include the following components:
- Job title
- Reports to ___________ (title)
- Pay grade (if there is a pay grade structure)
- Exempt/Nonexempt status of the job
- Essential job duties *
- Non-essential job duties *
- Physical and mental requirements (e.g. must be able to climb ladders; constant attention to computer screen; ability to lift up to ____ lbs.)
- Work environment (e.g. exposure to heat or cold or high noise levels)
- Work hours, travel requirements, on-call requirements
- Qualifications (i.e. experience, education, special skills and/or licensure)
(* Note: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers cannot discriminate against an individual with a disability if they cannot perform non-essential job duties, and must provide reasonable accommodation that would allow them to perform essential job duties. Essential job functions are the fundamental duties of a position: the things a person holding the job absolutely must be able to do. An employee who can’t perform the essential job functions, even with a reasonable accommodation, isn’t considered qualified for the job. Therefore, there is a need to differentiate essential from non-essential duties.)
Are they worth the effort? Absolutely.