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Job Description Do’s and Don’ts

June 15, 2022

By Linda Olejniczak, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

It’s a daunting task to review and update job descriptions. The “when” of review and updating is “as often as needed.”  Job descriptions should reflect current responsibilities, any duty changes, manager change, location change, and update to skills, education, and qualifications for the role.  The “why” of updating them is because employees should know the expectations of their roles and the rules and regulations they need to follow, some of which are legally required.

At a minimum job description should be updated annually.  These steps can serve as a guide:

  • Evaluate current descriptions.
  • Prioritize the most outdated.
  • Create a job description template.
  • Collect the information using a job description questionnaire.
  • Use answers to create new descriptions or conduct updates.
  • Develop a process to update job descriptions regularly.

While they are not meant to be so detailed in the exact number of tasks performed or every possible scenario that an employee may face in their job, they should include the general scope and level of the work to be performed.

As a summary of the tasks and duties assigned to a position, job descriptions can come in handy to an employer for a variety of reasons: for recruiting new employees, in the completion of performance evaluations, for investigating workplace complaints, and for understanding the essential functions of the job as they relate to the ADA. 

A great example of how this process may help your organization was highlighted in a recent CBS Sunday Morning segment on May 15, 2022.  Ken Frazier, (former Executive Chairman/CEO of Merck) and Ginni Rometty (former CEO of IBM) of the OneTen Coalition describes how they took a different approach to higher education vs. skills while reviewing job descriptions at their former employers.  Could those degrees translate into a set of skills?  What began as 90% of the jobs requiring a college degree is now below 50%. How has this worked for these companies?  Data has shown that performance is equal to those with a four-year degree, and people who have the right skills and training are five times more likely to succeed in the job. 

Job descriptions are not effective tools unless they are well-written, complete, and up to date.  Reviewing your organization’s job descriptions on a regular basis will have a positive impact over time.

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