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Gabriel Squailia is more than Astron's Research Librarian. In his free time, Gabriel enjoys creative writing. His works have appeared in publications includingThe Times Herald Record, Fish Drum, and Street Level. He also writes for the stage, and has authored adaptations, children's plays, and poetry for dance performances.
Pain Free Job Descriptions in Under a Year are Possible
Job descriptions are essential tools often reviled by those whose essential function it is to write them. In this Astronology, we offer pain-relieving tips for bettering your organization's JDs.
Job descriptions are the cornerstone of all decisions human resource practioners make in determining each job's appropriate compensation level. As formal performance standards, job descriptions give valuable points of reference during performance reviews. They must be precise enough to help classify a job's exempt or non-exempt status. Online, edited job descriptions may serve as recruitment tools, describing jobs to potential employees. They provide starting points for career paths and job-worth hierarchies. Finally, when properly designed, job descriptions offer protection against litigation.
Job descriptions comprise:
- A short, general summary
- A list of 1-10 essential functions
- Job specifications: requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities
- Working conditions
And often include:
- Job titles
- Exemption status
- Organizational unit
- Reporting relationships
- A disclaimer statement (i.e., "May perform other duties as required")
- Dates and approvals
(Adapted from WorldatWork's Certification Textbook C2: Job Analysis, Design, Documentation and Evaluation.)
Beginning with a consistent template for your organization's job descriptions will have a dramatic impact on the future of the process. No one will have to reinvent the wheel, and job descriptions can be easily incorporated into performance reviews.
A job description is not a task list - you needn't concern yourself with listing every last thing an employee does. Instead, focus on essential functions: responsibilities and duties whose performance is primary and fundamental to the job. If removing a function would alter the very nature of the job, it's essential. A good rule of thumb is to include functions that involve at least 10% of the incumbent's working time.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes sensitivity vital to designing essential functions. According to the Almanac of Policy Issues, the ADA "prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities because of their disabilities unless it can be shown that the disability hinders the employee's ability to perform the job." In other words, typing is not necessary to the job of secretary if a paraplegic employee with voice-recognition software could perform the essential function - entering data - without it.
The ADA provides factors a court would consider when reviewing a job's essential functions:
- Employer's judgment
- Written job descriptions prepared before advertising or interviewing job applicants
- Amount of working time spent performing the function
- Consequences of the incumbent not performing the function
- Work experience of incumbents currently in similar jobs
Today's emphasis on essential functions over tasks, while also making job descriptions more functional, stems from compliance with the ADA.
Depending on the size of your organization, defining essential functions may be quite a task. A number of methods may aid you:
- Observation, though time-consuming, may work in environments where work is standardized and repetitive, and job functions are static.
- Interviews and questionnaires can flesh out the functions of more complicated or dynamic jobs.
- Generic job descriptions, available in numerous books and programs, can be tailored to suit more common jobs.
Updating existing job descriptions by incorporating one of the above methods will save time and effort. Conversely, if existing job descriptions are bloated with detail, essential functions can be consolidated from lists of tasks.
When constructing the language in a job description, strive to be concise and clear. It's far better to have five bullets describing the overarching functions of a job than a five-page treatise exploring best practices in staple removal.
You may find Plachy and Plachy's guidelines, as described in Results-Oriented Job Descriptions, helpful. They recommend structuring essential functions according to the formula, "(RESULT) by (duties involved)," as in, "ASSISTS CUSTOMERS by | More