Job descriptions make clear employee's responsibilities

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 2, 2007

The purpose of a job description is to communicate, to all employees, exactly what is expected of them in the performance of their duties.

A job description may include information on working conditions and relationships with other jobs, identification of standards within certain established limits and description of the scope and content of the job.

It represents a tool to the employer to be used as a means to select individuals, either from outside the company or from within, to fill a position.

It establishes clear communication between the company and the employee to ensure they have the same perception and understanding of the position.

No one can perform to the expectations of an employer, or to the best of his/her ability if he or she doesn’t have a clear understanding of what is expected and what authorities’ responsibilities are. A verbal or poorly written definition of a job can also open up opportunities for the employee to take advantage of some situations.

A written description provides a means for open communications between a supervisor and subordinate. Discussion of the material contained in the description will eliminate areas of possible misunderstanding about what needs to be accomplished.

As a source document, a job description provides a reference from which all performance and wage/salary reviews stem. Discussion and documentation for reviewing performance, either positive or negative, should be related to the contents of the description and should be as specific and objective as possible.

The duties and responsibilities are areas that, when statistically measured in units for the individual and compared to standards of acceptable performance, give an accurate portrayal of that person’s performance against the pre-determined standards.

Job descriptions provide the necessary information for hiring and promoting current staff members into vacant job slots. That’s why one needs to be prepared for all new positions and, when necessary, should be reviewed and evaluated for current positions before advertising for or interviewing applicants. This assists the manager in the selection of the right person for the job.

The depth of detail of a job description is up to the writer. The degree to which parameters are stated generally is dictated by the type of job to be performed and, to some extent, the type of person (level of maturity, education, etc.) that will be filling the position.

Job descriptions are not intended to be unchangeable since duties, authorities and responsibilities change over time and written details need to be revised accordingly.

They should be reviewed annually and updated as changes are made, assuring currency of the description and flexibility for management.

Management should retain the right to change job descriptions in accordance with changes of duties and responsibilities, and this needs to be spelled out.

Industry regulatory requirements must be followed, as well as federal, state and local laws, including OSHA, EEOC and Americans with Disabilities Act rules.

Job descriptions establish the basis for performance evaluations and when used positively (coaching) and frequently, a performance review is a motivation tool. On the other hand, annual reviews tend to become viewed as only a reason to grant, or withhold, pay increases.

Employees can’t be told they are doing a bad job if they don’t know and fully understand what that job is.

Robert Garrison’s company based in Rowan County is called The Garrison Group, which offers import/export support, help in obtaining capital and mentoring/consulting services. Contact him at or 800-686-6019 ext.4.