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Accurate job descriptions provide a basis for job evaluation, wage and salary comparisons, and an equitable wage and salary structure. In particular, well-written job descriptions should:
• Clarify who is responsible for what within the company. They also help define relationships between individuals, between departments, etc. By accomplishing this, they can settle grievances, minimize conflicts, and improve communications.
• Help the jobholder understand the responsibilities of the position. This not only enables the employee to assess the relative importance of everything he or she is accountable for, but also provides a sense of where the job fits in to the company as a whole.
• Assist job applicants, employees, supervisors, and human resources professionals at every stage in the employment relationship, from recruitment to retirement. They provide information about the knowledge, training, education, and skills needed for each job. They prevent unnecessary misunderstandings by telling employees what they need to know about their jobs.
• Help management analyze and improve the company's structure. They reveal whether all company responsibilities are adequately covered and where these responsibilities should be reallocated to achieve a better balance.
• Provide a basis from which to determine whether a disabled applicant is otherwise qualified for the job and, if so, to assist in determining what accommodation would be required for the applicant to be able to perform the essential functions of the position.
The style and content of a company's job descriptions say a great deal about the company itself, its management philosophy, its attitude toward change and growth, and its priority areas for personnel development. What is included in a job description is also influenced by the level of the job described. Higher-level position descriptions usually focus on overall responsibilities, interrelationships, and lines of authority and are used primarily for organizational planning and management development programs. Lower-level descriptions, on the other hand, usually cover day-to-day activities, making them more useful for orientation, training, and wage and salary administration purposes. The aim of any new or revised job descriptions program should be to develop descriptions that lend themselves to a number of different uses rather than to specifically meet one or two pressing needs.
The first step in establishing a new or revised job descriptions program is to set goals for the program. When determining the purpose of a job descriptions program, consider the following:
• Why are new job descriptions needed? What are the shortcomings of our existing job descriptions? What events or conditions indicate that this is the time to get involved in a job description program?
• To what specific uses will job descriptions be put?
• What are the projected costs of the program? Has a budget been drawn up and submitted to top management for approval?
• Who will be involved in the preparation of new job descriptions? Are these individuals willing and able to put the required time into the project? Is top management committed to the idea?
The next step in establishing or revising an existing job descriptions program is to determine who will manage and who will conduct the process. Generally, the manager charged with overall responsibility for the program would be the person responsible for the compensation department or division. In a medium-sized company, the compensation manager might be charged with management responsibilities, with the frontline work completed by a job analyst. In a small company, the entire job, from conceptualization through execution, might rest with the HR manager. How an organization handles the job depends on factors such as internal expertise, goals of the program, and finances.
Who should prepare job descriptions? The next decision to make is, who will actually prepare the job descriptions? Who will conduct the job analyses and determine the job specifications? While it is the human resources department in most medium-sized and larger firms that perform the job analysis function and coordinate the writing of job descriptions, the entire process usually requires some input from other levels of the company hierarchy--supervisors and employees included. The key to establishing accurate and enforceable job descriptions is to engage the individuals who are most familiar with the daily activities conducted by the individuals with the job title, and who can also maintain objectivity in quantifying and describing duties.
The approval process. No matter who does the actual writing of job descriptions, there must be a person or people responsible for approving the finished product. Approval procedures vary according to the amount of responsibility given to supervisors and job analysts, the extent to which the company favors administrative controls, the purposes for which the job descriptions will be used, and the terms of any relevant union contracts. A basic approval process would include the following steps:
(1) The position's supervisor agrees that the job description is a complete, accurate, and clear representation of the job. (At professional, supervisory, and managerial levels, this approval level often would rest first with the job incumbents.)
(2) The upper-level manager agrees that functional relationships and responsibility delegations have been represented correctly.
(3) The wage administrator (or in some cases, the job descriptions or compensation committee) approves the format and content.
(4) An HR professional with knowledge of the legal factors or an employment law attorney provides agreement that there are no legal "red flags" in the descriptions that would, even without intimate knowledge of the job, be a legal problem.
In the case of unionized employees and depending on the ultimate use of the job description, the union may also be asked to participate in the review and approval process.
The advantages of this type of approval process are obvious: Each individual reviews the completed job description from his or her own unique perspective, evaluating it on the basis of what he or she knows and understands best about the job in question. This is an excellent means of obtaining broad-based participation in the program while at the same time encouraging each group to stay within the limits of its own expertise.
Each organization has different rules regarding access to job descriptions. While a company's particular needs may demand some deviation from the following guidelines, they can be used as a starting point for establishing company policy:
• Employees should have access to, and preferably a copy of, their own job descriptions.
• Supervisors, managers, and executives should have access to the descriptions of their subordinates' job descriptions.
• Nonmanagerial employees should not have access to managerial job descriptions.
• There may be instances when managers or executives (but not usually supervisors) would have access to the job descriptions of employees who do not report to them. This may be appropriate during reorganizations, long-range development, or other situations. In addition, it might be appropriate for managers to view the job descriptions of employees from other departments vying for open positions in the manager's department.
• When employees are applying for internal transfers or promotions, it may be appropriate for them to receive copies of the description of the open job. If this procedure is abused, access could be limited to viewing only by final candidates for the open job.
• HR staffers should have access on a "need-to-know" basis. This means that the HR vice president, director, or manager generally would have unrestricted access to any job description. The same generally would be true for most professional and managerial compensation, employment, employee relations, training, and related personnel. Other HR staffers, such as benefits managers, as well as clerical and administrative staff not specifically designated to work in the job descriptions area, would have more restricted access.
A crucial factor in the success of any job or position descriptions program is the procedure for keeping descriptions up to date. Changes in jobs take many forms and occur for a variety of reasons. For example, a change in the job's physical surroundings might affect the level of hazard or fatigue, creating the need for protective garments or equipment and/or creating a need to accommodate an otherwise qualified individual in the job. A technological change, either in the product itself or in the equipment or process used to manufacture it, might make the job easier or more difficult to perform; it might also create or eliminate a need for special knowledge. In order to keep job descriptions up to date, consider setting up a formal review program. If a yearly review is not possible for every job, then at the very least, certain jobs should be classified as benchmark positions for the purposes of review. These jobs would then be reviewed (and updated as appropriate) yearly. Other jobs in the same family would then be reviewed on an as-needed basis, based on the findings of the benchmark reviews, as well as on some other predetermined interval.
A well-crafted job description is a written statement that describes the main objective of a job, its essential and nonessential functions, job qualifications, and other information on the job. A job description may describe duties, skills, effort, responsibilities of the job, environmental and working conditions specific to the job, as well as the education and experience required for performing the job. It may also include information on tools and equipment used and relationships with other jobs. A job description describes the job, not the person or persons who hold that job.
Many job descriptions contain the following seven elements:
(1) Job identification/position summary,
(2) Essential functions,
(3) Skills,
(4) Knowledge,
(5) Attributes,
(6) Experience and education, and
(7) Physical and environmental conditions.
This framework may vary from employer to employer and from job to job. The basic elements will be discussed, and the overall format of the job description will be discussed further in this section. One important thing to remember is that all job descriptions within an organization should follow the same rules for application of a particular format. Those individuals responsible for writing them should receive similar instructions and follow the same guidelines so that valid comparisons can be made among jobs.
Job identification is the basic introduction to the job description. It includes elements such as the job title, job code, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) status (i.e., exempt or nonexempt), immediate supervisor's title, and department. The job identification should also include the date on which the job description was written and approved. Only items of information that are relatively permanent should be included in the job identification (e.g., use a supervisor's title, not his or her name). This information may be arranged in a number of ways. For example, a smaller company may simply ask for the job title, department, supervisor's title, and the date.
Job titles. The most important element in the job identification is the job title. A job title that identifies the job accurately and precisely is not only valuable to the jobholder or to someone just starting the job, but also establishes the relationships among jobs and serves to help in comparing the job with others in the organization. A good job title describes the job in a word or two, indicates the job's specific field of activity, its relationship to that field, and its professional standing; provides some form of prestige to the jobholder; and accurately reflects the job's content, purpose, and scope of responsibility. A good job title should also indicate skill level or supervisory level, where valid distinctions exist. Job titles should be similar or identical to one of the titles the job has had in the past so that employees and supervisors won't have to learn a completely new vocabulary every time job descriptions are written or revised.
Job codes. Another major item in the job identification section is the job code. This refers to the employer's unique combination of numbers or letters that the company has assigned to the job. Many firms have either used or adapted the six-digit numerical code used by the Department of Labor in its Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), now known as the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). Other companies set up their own set of numbers and letters to denote various categories for internal HR use. For example, the first letter of the code might be 1 for exempt or 2 for nonexempt; the second might be 3 or 4 for supervisory or nonsupervisory; the third, 1 through 9 for job categories under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (used in the Commission's EEO-1 Form); the fourth might denote which, if any, bonus compensation program the job is part of, etc.
The second section of a well-written job description format is known as the "position summary." It is a brief, narrative picture of the job that highlights its general characteristics. It is especially valuable to the reader who wants to obtain a quick overview of the job. The job summary should provide enough information to differentiate the major functions and activities of the job from those of other jobs.
Since brevity, accuracy, and objectivity are primary goals in writing the job summary, it is wise to follow these three basic rules:
• Start the position summary with an action word (verb).
• Explain the job's requirements; in other words, tell what is done.
• If necessary, explain the why or how of the job--its purpose. If it is necessary or helpful to do so, use an example.
The choice of words in the position summary is a crucial factor. The meanings established for certain words in a particular job summary should be applied consistently throughout all job descriptions. Try to avoid ambiguous words that leave themselves open to a number of possible interpretations. And finally, use simple terms and phrases with which everyone in the company is familiar. It is often in the job summary section that the phrase "Performs other assignments (or duties) as required" is included. This conveys the message that certain things that must be done are not always included in the job description.
Essential functions are common to all job description formats and represent a summary of those functions associated with the job. The essential functions should represent those duties that must be performed in the job. When assigning essential functions to a job, first determine whether the employee is actually required to perform that function. For example, a description might say that typing is an essential function for a receptionist, but if the employer never required any employee in this position to type, typing would not be considered an essential function. If individuals who hold the position are actually required to perform that function, the function may be considered essential. Sometimes, the essential duties section will be followed by a section on "Additional Responsibilities," which are nonessential or marginal job functions. When trying to identify the essential job duties and responsibilities, it is vital to focus on the function of the job rather than the means used to achieve that function.
What to include in essential functions. Some of the items that might be included in essential functions are regular day-to-day functions; duties that occur at irregular intervals but that are of a recurring and essential nature; quantity and quality of supervision received; quantity and quality of supervision exercised; amount of human interaction required (in teaching, counseling, coaching, and training); extent of contacts made both inside and outside the company; responsibility for maintaining records; requirements for following instructions or orders; responsibility for company funds; degree of accountability for human and material resources; office machines or equipment that must be operated; physical demands; emotional demands; and any other unusual demands.
Using the 80/20 rule. When deciding which functions to include as "essential" to the job description, some employers use the "80/20 rule." The rule states that 80 percent of what comes out of a job is the result of 20 percent of what goes into it. In other words, only about 20 percent of what the employee actually does is responsible for achieving 80 percent of the job's results or objectives. This 20 percent of the job's content constitutes the essential functions of the job description.
Essential functions and the ADA. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from refusing to hire or employ an otherwise qualified individual with a disability as long as that individual can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) amended the ADA effective January 1, 2009, significantly altering the way in which disabilities are evaluated and accommodated. For more information Please see the Disabilities (ADA) section. . Under the ADA, as amended, "essential functions" are defined as those duties that an individual must be able to perform (i.e., fundamental rather than marginal duties). This is where job descriptions come into play. In determining whether a function is essential, one of the elements that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will look at is a written job description prepared by the employer before advertising the position or interviewing applicants.
An employer may ask about an applicant's ability to perform job-related functions, with or without reasonable accommodation. This can be accomplished by describing a particular job duty (e.g., an employee must be able to transport 50-pound bags from a loading dock) and then asking whether the applicant can perform that function. An employer may conduct nonmedical tests that measure an applicant's ability to perform job-related functions (e.g., a lifting test). If an applicant is asked to demonstrate performance and indicates that he or she will need a reasonable accommodation to do so, the employer must either provide a reasonable accommodation that does not create an undue hardship so that the applicant can demonstrate job performance, or allow that applicant to describe how he or she would perform the job function.
Job descriptions are not required under the ADA, but for most employers, detailing the essential functions in a job description will help ensure that applicants and employees with disabilities are not discriminated against because they cannot perform marginal job duties. Please see the Disabilities (ADA) section.
Practice tip for documenting essential functions. When writing job duties/essential functions, use brief, to-the-point sentences or phrases. Begin each sentence or phrase with an action verb. Use the present tense. Avoid verbs that do not specifically indicate the action involved. For example, "handles mail" might be better expressed as "sorts mail" or "distributes mail."
The skills section of the job description refers to work-related attributes acquired and/or developed through experience and education. Required skills should be related to work performance and are generally divided into basic skills and cross-functional skills. Basic skills are skills such as the ability to read or acquire new knowledge, listening, and writing. Cross-functional skills are skills such as problem solving, technical skills, and equipment operation.
Knowledge represents the acquisition of facts and principles about a domain of information. Knowledge can encompass areas such as business and management administration, economics, accounting, sales, marketing, customer and personal service, as well as many other position disciplines. There may be some overlap between knowledge and experience/education. However, in the knowledge portion of the job description, the employer should address the facts and principles of the particular discipline with which the candidate should have a specified level of familiarity. For example, a knowledge requirement may be computer engineering, but an education/experience requirement would be a Bachelor of Science degree.
Attributes encompass specific abilities an incumbent has that influence his or her job performance. For example, cognitive abilities, verbal abilities, written comprehension, oral expression, and written expression may all be encompassed in the "Attributes" section of the job description.
Experience and educational requirements lay the foundation for establishing procedures to work with given knowledge. The job description should include requirements related to previous work activities, information about the typical experiential backgrounds of workers in an occupation, including certification, licensure, and training. For example, information about the professional or organizational certifications required for entry and advancement in an occupation, preferred education or training, and required apprenticeships should be documented in this section of the job description. Specifically, the description should answer questions such as what does the job require in terms of formal schooling, training, or knowledge of a specialized field? How long should the incumbent have worked in this job or in closely related jobs? Within or outside the organization? Wherever possible, the employer should describe measurable qualifications, such as education and experience, in terms of years.
EEOC Statement on Educational Requirements. In 2011, the EEOC issued a letter stating that if an employer adopts an educational standard for a job such as requiring a high school diploma, and that requirement “screens out” an individual who is unable to graduate because of a disability that meets the ADA’s definition of “disability,” the employer may not apply the standard unless it can demonstrate that the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity.
The employer will not be able to make this showing, for example, if the functions in question can easily be performed by someone who does not have a diploma. Even if the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity, the employer may still have to determine whether a particular applicant whose learning disability prevents him or her from getting a diploma can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation. It may do so, for example, by considering relevant work history and/or by allowing the applicant to demonstrate an ability to do the job’s essential functions during the application process. If the individual can perform the job’s essential functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation, despite the inability to meet the standard, the employer may not use the high school diploma requirement to exclude the applicant. However, the employer is not required to prefer the applicant with a disability over other applicants who are better qualified.
Because the ADA requires that otherwise qualified applicants and employees be able to perform the essential functions of a job with or without reasonable accommodation, job descriptions for positions that have physical and/or environmental requirements should include precise descriptions of those physical and/or environmental requirement(s). The inclusion of physical and/or environmental requirements in a job description may also assist the employer in addressing occupational safety and health issues and workers' compensation issues.
Relate to essential functions. It is important to remember that physical and environmental requirements in a job description must directly relate to the essential functions of the job itself. If the job does not have a physical or environmental requirement that directly relates to the essential function(s) of the job, the job description need not contain physical or environmental requirements.
Caution: If the physical requirements listed as part of the job description are overly restrictive, the employer is in danger of a claim that it intended to discriminate against certain workers (i.e., disabled individuals), rather than a good-faith effort to provide an accurate description of the job.
Determining physical and environmental requirements. The physical and environmental requirements to be included in a job description are really driven by the job itself. When crafting an accurate description of the physical requirements of the job, consider the physical activity required by the job (that directly relates to the essential functions of the job).
Sample physical requirements.The elements to be considered for physical requirements might include standing, walking, sitting, finger or manual dexterity, repetitive finger motion, lifting or exerting force (up to 10, 25, 50, 100, over 100 pounds), reaching or stretching, climbing or balancing, crouching or stooping, creeping or crawling, speaking, hearing, tasting, smelling, seeing (with correction), close vision, distance vision, color discrimination, peripheral vision, depth perception, focusing ability, or other factors that are applicable to the job.
Sample environmental requirements. For environmental conditions, consider whether the essential functions of the job require work in outdoor weather conditions, wet or humid conditions, extreme cold, or extreme heat; work requiring exposure to fumes or airborne particles, toxic or caustic chemicals, bloodborne pathogens, risk of fire or explosion, risk of electric shock, risk of radiation, risk of drowning, prolonged vibration, loud noise levels; or other factors that are applicable to the job.
For each of these physical and environmental requirements, consider the amount of time the essential functions of the job require the individual to be exposed to the condition(s).
The job description should not restrict the right of supervisors to assign additional duties not specified in the job description. However, it is important to realize that because of legal considerations, these extra duties and responsibilities should not be considered "essential functions" of the job. To avoid any possible misunderstandings, many companies have a statement similar to the following at the bottom of their job description forms:
"This job description in no way states or implies that these are the only duties to be performed by this employee. He or she will be required to follow any other instructions and to perform any other duties requested by his or her supervisor."
Job description formats vary widely, and there is no single "right" format to follow. Length can range from a half-page to two or three full pages, depending on the nature of the job and the company's program goals. Whatever the length, the finished job description should be detailed enough to give a clear picture of the job to someone not familiar with it. The written information should make it possible for the reader to compare the demands and contributions of this job with those of other jobs in the company. It must tell why and how job duties are performed, and it must indicate the job's scope, complexity, authority, and accountability.
While no set rule governs the length of job descriptions, brevity and conciseness should be the goal at all times. Most companies try to keep their job descriptions to one page or less. If a job specification section is included, it is usually put on a separate sheet. Job requirements or duties that are inherent in the position should never be omitted merely for the sake of brevity, but at the same time, it is not always necessary to describe every minute detail of the method employed in performing a particular duty.
The variety of available formats for job descriptions is almost endless. Employers may use more than one format as long as it doesn't make it more difficult to rank or compare similar jobs. In other words, it would certainly be justifiable to use a different format for hourly and salaried employees, but there would be no point in using a particular format for some hourly employees and not others. A sample format is presented below. Not all seven elements discussed earlier in this section are included in the sample. Information can be added to or subtracted from this basic format, depending on a company's needs.
Job Title: Marketing Assistant
Date: January 1, 20XX
Dept. or Division: Marketing
Status: Nonexempt
Reports to: Marketing Director
Job Code: 2376
Written by: Jane Jones
Approved by: Jen James
Position Summary: Describes the general purpose of the job; why the job exists
Essential Functions: Summary of typical duties and responsibilities of the job; may be divided into "essential functions" and "additional responsibilities"
Skills: Lists marketing-related attributes the incumbent should possess (e.g., active listening, writing, persuasion, and social skills)
Knowledge: Addresses the facts and principles of marketing with which the candidate should have a specified level of familiarity (e.g., sales and marketing, business, and customer service)
Attributes: Includes specific abilities an incumbent has that influence his or her job performance (e.g., oral expression, idea generation, deductive reasoning, and written expression)
Experience and Education: Documents requirements related to previous work activities and typical educational background (e.g., Bachelor of Arts degree with course work and job experience in marketing).
To see hundreds of sample job descriptions organized by job title and industry, go to the Job Description Manager tool athttp://hr.blr.com/JDM/index.aspx.
Behavioral job descriptions are an expression of what the individual does in specific and measurable terms, with job objectives stated in the form of behaviors the individual is expected to display. This approach is designed to eliminate the ambiguity that characterizes most traditional job descriptions and that renders them useless for many of the purposes we have already discussed. The advantage of stating job objectives in precise, behavioral terms is that it makes the incumbent's role or function absolutely clear.
By stating job objectives in specific, quantifiable terms, the job descriptions establish goals and guides the employees in their efforts to obtain them. These goals also serve as convenient "benchmarks" against which employees can evaluate their own performances. They know exactly what constitutes satisfactory performance and can, therefore, judge how well they are performing at all times. Needless to say, behavioral job descriptions are an invaluable aid to the company's regular performance appraisal program.
The higher up in the organizational hierarchy, the more difficult it becomes to define a job in written terms, and the more important it becomes to update job descriptions regularly. This is because upper-level managers and executives tend to carry their work patterns with them when they take on new jobs and may end up drastically modifying the duties and responsibilities to which they are assigned. The development of "position descriptions," rather than job descriptions, for these higher-level jobs is one solution to the problem. Some companies have position descriptions as well as job descriptions, and some confusion exists over the proper terminology to use for the document that describes duties and responsibilities.
How do positions descriptions differ from job descriptions? Position descriptions usually differ from job descriptions in the following ways: (1) they stress intangibles to a greater extent; (2) the emphasis is on results as well as on the position's responsibilities, the contribution the work makes to the company's welfare, and the impact of the job on the company's operations; and (3) they usually are written in more general terms and tend to give more weight to relationships and lines of authority (how the position fits into the overall organizational scheme).
Although the variety of position description formats is almost as wide as that of regular job descriptions, the typical description is divided into three or four major sections. Depending on the position to be described and the intended use(s) of the finished product, these sections may be arranged in one of the following ways:
Objective. This is sometimes called "Function," "Summary Statement," "Purpose," "Basic Objective," or "Mission." It states the basic reason for the position's existence concisely and in very straightforward language. It should provide the major factors that distinguish it from other positions. Although this section is often written last, it is always put at the top of the finished description. It often states the purpose of the position in performance-oriented objectives.
Essential functions or accountabilities. This section specifies the essential functions that must be carried out to fulfill the position's basic objective. It lists the important end results that this particular job must achieve. Each item should be a concise statement of what the incumbent must do, accompanied by a statement or clause explaining "why." Each statement should pinpoint an accountability against which some measure of performance can be applied.
Authority. Many companies feel that responsibilities and authority are so inextricably entwined that they combine this with the section on "Essential Duties and Responsibilities." When "Authority" receives separate treatment, this section defines the limits within which the incumbent must operate in performing his or her duties. It specifies the extent of power or authority held by the manager and is sometimes referred to as the "charter" under which he or she operates.
Relationships. This section usually contains three different types of information: (1) the status of the incumbent's superior, (2) the titles of those who report to the incumbent, and (3) internal and external relationships. A discussion of internal relationships might include communication channels, supervision received, and supervision exercised. External relationships usually include the company's relationships with the general public, other corporations, and public agencies.
Accountability objectives. This is another approach to the "Objective" section discussed above, but it states the purpose of the position in terms of performance-oriented objectives.
Dimensions. This section is usually found only in accountability-oriented position descriptions. It summarizes all the statistics that are pertinent to the job, giving the reader a clear picture of the magnitude of the end results affected by the job. It specifies such items as annual production volume and operating budget, average inventory value, capital assets maintained, number of operating plants supervised, and number of exempt/nonexempt, salaried/hourly employees supervised.
Nature and scope. This section is the real "heart" of the position description. It tells the reader what the job is all about (usually in narrative form), emphasizing the following aspects: (1) how the job fits in to the organization, including significant internal and external relationships; (2) the general composition of the supporting staff, including a short summary of each job supervised, if applicable; (3) the technical, managerial, and human relations know-how required; (4) the key problems likely to be encountered by the incumbent; and (5) the existing controls on the job's freedom to solve problems and take action.
Accountabilities. An accountability is an end result or objective that the job exists to achieve, while a duty or responsibility is the means by which end results are achieved. Management position descriptions usually focus on the former, not the latter.
The previous sections provide much information on what should be included in a job description. However, there are a number of things that employers should avoid when crafting descriptions to fit a particular organization. The following do not belong in a job description:
Negative statements, such as "does not answer phone while supervisor is out of the office."
Abbreviations, even if their meanings are well known to the jobholder and the supervisor. All words should be spelled out so that anyone who might refer to the job description in the future will know what it is saying.
Duties that are to be performed in the future, except in the case of a new job that is just being established. The general rule is that a function must have been performed for a period of 3 months before being included in a job description in order for the worker to be familiar enough with it to provide the job analyst with the necessary information.
Occasional or temporary duties. If it is necessary for some reason to add occasional or temporary duties, there should be a notation in the margin opposite these duties, stating that they are temporary or occasional. It should be clear whether these are essential and fundamental to the job or whether they are considered marginal functions.
Generalized statements. When such statements are unavoidable, they should be followed by an example to clarify them. It is usually best to use an example given by the jobholder.
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Accurate job descriptions provide a basis for job evaluation, wage and salary comparisons, and an equitable wage and salary structure. In particular, well-written job descriptions should:
• Clarify who is responsible for what within the company. They also help define relationships between individuals, between departments, etc. By accomplishing this, they can settle grievances, minimize conflicts, and improve communications.
• Help the jobholder understand the responsibilities of the position. This not only enables the employee to assess the relative importance of everything he or she is accountable for, but also provides a sense of where the job fits in to the company as a whole.
• Assist job applicants, employees, supervisors, and human resources professionals at every stage in the employment relationship, from recruitment to retirement. They provide information about the knowledge, training, education, and skills needed for each job. They prevent unnecessary misunderstandings by telling employees what they need to know about their jobs.
• Help management analyze and improve the company's structure. They reveal whether all company responsibilities are adequately covered and where these responsibilities should be reallocated to achieve a better balance.
• Provide a basis from which to determine whether a disabled applicant is otherwise qualified for the job and, if so, to assist in determining what accommodation would be required for the applicant to be able to perform the essential functions of the position.
The style and content of a company's job descriptions say a great deal about the company itself, its management philosophy, its attitude toward change and growth, and its priority areas for personnel development. What is included in a job description is also influenced by the level of the job described. Higher-level position descriptions usually focus on overall responsibilities, interrelationships, and lines of authority and are used primarily for organizational planning and management development programs. Lower-level descriptions, on the other hand, usually cover day-to-day activities, making them more useful for orientation, training, and wage and salary administration purposes. The aim of any new or revised job descriptions program should be to develop descriptions that lend themselves to a number of different uses rather than to specifically meet one or two pressing needs.
The first step in establishing a new or revised job descriptions program is to set goals for the program. When determining the purpose of a job descriptions program, consider the following:
• Why are new job descriptions needed? What are the shortcomings of our existing job descriptions? What events or conditions indicate that this is the time to get involved in a job description program?
• To what specific uses will job descriptions be put?
• What are the projected costs of the program? Has a budget been drawn up and submitted to top management for approval?
• Who will be involved in the preparation of new job descriptions? Are these individuals willing and able to put the required time into the project? Is top management committed to the idea?
The next step in establishing or revising an existing job descriptions program is to determine who will manage and who will conduct the process. Generally, the manager charged with overall responsibility for the program would be the person responsible for the compensation department or division. In a medium-sized company, the compensation manager might be charged with management responsibilities, with the frontline work completed by a job analyst. In a small company, the entire job, from conceptualization through execution, might rest with the HR manager. How an organization handles the job depends on factors such as internal expertise, goals of the program, and finances.
Who should prepare job descriptions? The next decision to make is, who will actually prepare the job descriptions? Who will conduct the job analyses and determine the job specifications? While it is the human resources department in most medium-sized and larger firms that perform the job analysis function and coordinate the writing of job descriptions, the entire process usually requires some input from other levels of the company hierarchy--supervisors and employees included. The key to establishing accurate and enforceable job descriptions is to engage the individuals who are most familiar with the daily activities conducted by the individuals with the job title, and who can also maintain objectivity in quantifying and describing duties.
The approval process. No matter who does the actual writing of job descriptions, there must be a person or people responsible for approving the finished product. Approval procedures vary according to the amount of responsibility given to supervisors and job analysts, the extent to which the company favors administrative controls, the purposes for which the job descriptions will be used, and the terms of any relevant union contracts. A basic approval process would include the following steps:
(1) The position's supervisor agrees that the job description is a complete, accurate, and clear representation of the job. (At professional, supervisory, and managerial levels, this approval level often would rest first with the job incumbents.)
(2) The upper-level manager agrees that functional relationships and responsibility delegations have been represented correctly.
(3) The wage administrator (or in some cases, the job descriptions or compensation committee) approves the format and content.
(4) An HR professional with knowledge of the legal factors or an employment law attorney provides agreement that there are no legal "red flags" in the descriptions that would, even without intimate knowledge of the job, be a legal problem.
In the case of unionized employees and depending on the ultimate use of the job description, the union may also be asked to participate in the review and approval process.
The advantages of this type of approval process are obvious: Each individual reviews the completed job description from his or her own unique perspective, evaluating it on the basis of what he or she knows and understands best about the job in question. This is an excellent means of obtaining broad-based participation in the program while at the same time encouraging each group to stay within the limits of its own expertise.
Each organization has different rules regarding access to job descriptions. While a company's particular needs may demand some deviation from the following guidelines, they can be used as a starting point for establishing company policy:
• Employees should have access to, and preferably a copy of, their own job descriptions.
• Supervisors, managers, and executives should have access to the descriptions of their subordinates' job descriptions.
• Nonmanagerial employees should not have access to managerial job descriptions.
• There may be instances when managers or executives (but not usually supervisors) would have access to the job descriptions of employees who do not report to them. This may be appropriate during reorganizations, long-range development, or other situations. In addition, it might be appropriate for managers to view the job descriptions of employees from other departments vying for open positions in the manager's department.
• When employees are applying for internal transfers or promotions, it may be appropriate for them to receive copies of the description of the open job. If this procedure is abused, access could be limited to viewing only by final candidates for the open job.
• HR staffers should have access on a "need-to-know" basis. This means that the HR vice president, director, or manager generally would have unrestricted access to any job description. The same generally would be true for most professional and managerial compensation, employment, employee relations, training, and related personnel. Other HR staffers, such as benefits managers, as well as clerical and administrative staff not specifically designated to work in the job descriptions area, would have more restricted access.
A crucial factor in the success of any job or position descriptions program is the procedure for keeping descriptions up to date. Changes in jobs take many forms and occur for a variety of reasons. For example, a change in the job's physical surroundings might affect the level of hazard or fatigue, creating the need for protective garments or equipment and/or creating a need to accommodate an otherwise qualified individual in the job. A technological change, either in the product itself or in the equipment or process used to manufacture it, might make the job easier or more difficult to perform; it might also create or eliminate a need for special knowledge. In order to keep job descriptions up to date, consider setting up a formal review program. If a yearly review is not possible for every job, then at the very least, certain jobs should be classified as benchmark positions for the purposes of review. These jobs would then be reviewed (and updated as appropriate) yearly. Other jobs in the same family would then be reviewed on an as-needed basis, based on the findings of the benchmark reviews, as well as on some other predetermined interval.
A well-crafted job description is a written statement that describes the main objective of a job, its essential and nonessential functions, job qualifications, and other information on the job. A job description may describe duties, skills, effort, responsibilities of the job, environmental and working conditions specific to the job, as well as the education and experience required for performing the job. It may also include information on tools and equipment used and relationships with other jobs. A job description describes the job, not the person or persons who hold that job.
Many job descriptions contain the following seven elements:
(1) Job identification/position summary,
(2) Essential functions,
(3) Skills,
(4) Knowledge,
(5) Attributes,
(6) Experience and education, and
(7) Physical and environmental conditions.
This framework may vary from employer to employer and from job to job. The basic elements will be discussed, and the overall format of the job description will be discussed further in this section. One important thing to remember is that all job descriptions within an organization should follow the same rules for application of a particular format. Those individuals responsible for writing them should receive similar instructions and follow the same guidelines so that valid comparisons can be made among jobs.
Job identification is the basic introduction to the job description. It includes elements such as the job title, job code, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) status (i.e., exempt or nonexempt), immediate supervisor's title, and department. The job identification should also include the date on which the job description was written and approved. Only items of information that are relatively permanent should be included in the job identification (e.g., use a supervisor's title, not his or her name). This information may be arranged in a number of ways. For example, a smaller company may simply ask for the job title, department, supervisor's title, and the date.
Job titles. The most important element in the job identification is the job title. A job title that identifies the job accurately and precisely is not only valuable to the jobholder or to someone just starting the job, but also establishes the relationships among jobs and serves to help in comparing the job with others in the organization. A good job title describes the job in a word or two, indicates the job's specific field of activity, its relationship to that field, and its professional standing; provides some form of prestige to the jobholder; and accurately reflects the job's content, purpose, and scope of responsibility. A good job title should also indicate skill level or supervisory level, where valid distinctions exist. Job titles should be similar or identical to one of the titles the job has had in the past so that employees and supervisors won't have to learn a completely new vocabulary every time job descriptions are written or revised.
Job codes. Another major item in the job identification section is the job code. This refers to the employer's unique combination of numbers or letters that the company has assigned to the job. Many firms have either used or adapted the six-digit numerical code used by the Department of Labor in its Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), now known as the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). Other companies set up their own set of numbers and letters to denote various categories for internal HR use. For example, the first letter of the code might be 1 for exempt or 2 for nonexempt; the second might be 3 or 4 for supervisory or nonsupervisory; the third, 1 through 9 for job categories under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (used in the Commission's EEO-1 Form); the fourth might denote which, if any, bonus compensation program the job is part of, etc.
The second section of a well-written job description format is known as the "position summary." It is a brief, narrative picture of the job that highlights its general characteristics. It is especially valuable to the reader who wants to obtain a quick overview of the job. The job summary should provide enough information to differentiate the major functions and activities of the job from those of other jobs.
Since brevity, accuracy, and objectivity are primary goals in writing the job summary, it is wise to follow these three basic rules:
• Start the position summary with an action word (verb).
• Explain the job's requirements; in other words, tell what is done.
• If necessary, explain the why or how of the job--its purpose. If it is necessary or helpful to do so, use an example.
The choice of words in the position summary is a crucial factor. The meanings established for certain words in a particular job summary should be applied consistently throughout all job descriptions. Try to avoid ambiguous words that leave themselves open to a number of possible interpretations. And finally, use simple terms and phrases with which everyone in the company is familiar. It is often in the job summary section that the phrase "Performs other assignments (or duties) as required" is included. This conveys the message that certain things that must be done are not always included in the job description.
Essential functions are common to all job description formats and represent a summary of those functions associated with the job. The essential functions should represent those duties that must be performed in the job. When assigning essential functions to a job, first determine whether the employee is actually required to perform that function. For example, a description might say that typing is an essential function for a receptionist, but if the employer never required any employee in this position to type, typing would not be considered an essential function. If individuals who hold the position are actually required to perform that function, the function may be considered essential. Sometimes, the essential duties section will be followed by a section on "Additional Responsibilities," which are nonessential or marginal job functions. When trying to identify the essential job duties and responsibilities, it is vital to focus on the function of the job rather than the means used to achieve that function.
What to include in essential functions. Some of the items that might be included in essential functions are regular day-to-day functions; duties that occur at irregular intervals but that are of a recurring and essential nature; quantity and quality of supervision received; quantity and quality of supervision exercised; amount of human interaction required (in teaching, counseling, coaching, and training); extent of contacts made both inside and outside the company; responsibility for maintaining records; requirements for following instructions or orders; responsibility for company funds; degree of accountability for human and material resources; office machines or equipment that must be operated; physical demands; emotional demands; and any other unusual demands.
Using the 80/20 rule. When deciding which functions to include as "essential" to the job description, some employers use the "80/20 rule." The rule states that 80 percent of what comes out of a job is the result of 20 percent of what goes into it. In other words, only about 20 percent of what the employee actually does is responsible for achieving 80 percent of the job's results or objectives. This 20 percent of the job's content constitutes the essential functions of the job description.
Essential functions and the ADA. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from refusing to hire or employ an otherwise qualified individual with a disability as long as that individual can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) amended the ADA effective January 1, 2009, significantly altering the way in which disabilities are evaluated and accommodated. For more information Please see the Disabilities (ADA) section. . Under the ADA, as amended, "essential functions" are defined as those duties that an individual must be able to perform (i.e., fundamental rather than marginal duties). This is where job descriptions come into play. In determining whether a function is essential, one of the elements that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will look at is a written job description prepared by the employer before advertising the position or interviewing applicants.
An employer may ask about an applicant's ability to perform job-related functions, with or without reasonable accommodation. This can be accomplished by describing a particular job duty (e.g., an employee must be able to transport 50-pound bags from a loading dock) and then asking whether the applicant can perform that function. An employer may conduct nonmedical tests that measure an applicant's ability to perform job-related functions (e.g., a lifting test). If an applicant is asked to demonstrate performance and indicates that he or she will need a reasonable accommodation to do so, the employer must either provide a reasonable accommodation that does not create an undue hardship so that the applicant can demonstrate job performance, or allow that applicant to describe how he or she would perform the job function.
Job descriptions are not required under the ADA, but for most employers, detailing the essential functions in a job description will help ensure that applicants and employees with disabilities are not discriminated against because they cannot perform marginal job duties. Please see the Disabilities (ADA) section.
Practice tip for documenting essential functions. When writing job duties/essential functions, use brief, to-the-point sentences or phrases. Begin each sentence or phrase with an action verb. Use the present tense. Avoid verbs that do not specifically indicate the action involved. For example, "handles mail" might be better expressed as "sorts mail" or "distributes mail."
The skills section of the job description refers to work-related attributes acquired and/or developed through experience and education. Required skills should be related to work performance and are generally divided into basic skills and cross-functional skills. Basic skills are skills such as the ability to read or acquire new knowledge, listening, and writing. Cross-functional skills are skills such as problem solving, technical skills, and equipment operation.
Knowledge represents the acquisition of facts and principles about a domain of information. Knowledge can encompass areas such as business and management administration, economics, accounting, sales, marketing, customer and personal service, as well as many other position disciplines. There may be some overlap between knowledge and experience/education. However, in the knowledge portion of the job description, the employer should address the facts and principles of the particular discipline with which the candidate should have a specified level of familiarity. For example, a knowledge requirement may be computer engineering, but an education/experience requirement would be a Bachelor of Science degree.
Attributes encompass specific abilities an incumbent has that influence his or her job performance. For example, cognitive abilities, verbal abilities, written comprehension, oral expression, and written expression may all be encompassed in the "Attributes" section of the job description.
Experience and educational requirements lay the foundation for establishing procedures to work with given knowledge. The job description should include requirements related to previous work activities, information about the typical experiential backgrounds of workers in an occupation, including certification, licensure, and training. For example, information about the professional or organizational certifications required for entry and advancement in an occupation, preferred education or training, and required apprenticeships should be documented in this section of the job description. Specifically, the description should answer questions such as what does the job require in terms of formal schooling, training, or knowledge of a specialized field? How long should the incumbent have worked in this job or in closely related jobs? Within or outside the organization? Wherever possible, the employer should describe measurable qualifications, such as education and experience, in terms of years.
EEOC Statement on Educational Requirements. In 2011, the EEOC issued a letter stating that if an employer adopts an educational standard for a job such as requiring a high school diploma, and that requirement “screens out” an individual who is unable to graduate because of a disability that meets the ADA’s definition of “disability,” the employer may not apply the standard unless it can demonstrate that the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity.
The employer will not be able to make this showing, for example, if the functions in question can easily be performed by someone who does not have a diploma. Even if the diploma requirement is job related and consistent with business necessity, the employer may still have to determine whether a particular applicant whose learning disability prevents him or her from getting a diploma can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation. It may do so, for example, by considering relevant work history and/or by allowing the applicant to demonstrate an ability to do the job’s essential functions during the application process. If the individual can perform the job’s essential functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation, despite the inability to meet the standard, the employer may not use the high school diploma requirement to exclude the applicant. However, the employer is not required to prefer the applicant with a disability over other applicants who are better qualified.
Because the ADA requires that otherwise qualified applicants and employees be able to perform the essential functions of a job with or without reasonable accommodation, job descriptions for positions that have physical and/or environmental requirements should include precise descriptions of those physical and/or environmental requirement(s). The inclusion of physical and/or environmental requirements in a job description may also assist the employer in addressing occupational safety and health issues and workers' compensation issues.
Relate to essential functions. It is important to remember that physical and environmental requirements in a job description must directly relate to the essential functions of the job itself. If the job does not have a physical or environmental requirement that directly relates to the essential function(s) of the job, the job description need not contain physical or environmental requirements.
Caution: If the physical requirements listed as part of the job description are overly restrictive, the employer is in danger of a claim that it intended to discriminate against certain workers (i.e., disabled individuals), rather than a good-faith effort to provide an accurate description of the job.
Determining physical and environmental requirements. The physical and environmental requirements to be included in a job description are really driven by the job itself. When crafting an accurate description of the physical requirements of the job, consider the physical activity required by the job (that directly relates to the essential functions of the job).
Sample physical requirements.The elements to be considered for physical requirements might include standing, walking, sitting, finger or manual dexterity, repetitive finger motion, lifting or exerting force (up to 10, 25, 50, 100, over 100 pounds), reaching or stretching, climbing or balancing, crouching or stooping, creeping or crawling, speaking, hearing, tasting, smelling, seeing (with correction), close vision, distance vision, color discrimination, peripheral vision, depth perception, focusing ability, or other factors that are applicable to the job.
Sample environmental requirements. For environmental conditions, consider whether the essential functions of the job require work in outdoor weather conditions, wet or humid conditions, extreme cold, or extreme heat; work requiring exposure to fumes or airborne particles, toxic or caustic chemicals, bloodborne pathogens, risk of fire or explosion, risk of electric shock, risk of radiation, risk of drowning, prolonged vibration, loud noise levels; or other factors that are applicable to the job.
For each of these physical and environmental requirements, consider the amount of time the essential functions of the job require the individual to be exposed to the condition(s).
The job description should not restrict the right of supervisors to assign additional duties not specified in the job description. However, it is important to realize that because of legal considerations, these extra duties and responsibilities should not be considered "essential functions" of the job. To avoid any possible misunderstandings, many companies have a statement similar to the following at the bottom of their job description forms:
"This job description in no way states or implies that these are the only duties to be performed by this employee. He or she will be required to follow any other instructions and to perform any other duties requested by his or her supervisor."
Job description formats vary widely, and there is no single "right" format to follow. Length can range from a half-page to two or three full pages, depending on the nature of the job and the company's program goals. Whatever the length, the finished job description should be detailed enough to give a clear picture of the job to someone not familiar with it. The written information should make it possible for the reader to compare the demands and contributions of this job with those of other jobs in the company. It must tell why and how job duties are performed, and it must indicate the job's scope, complexity, authority, and accountability.
While no set rule governs the length of job descriptions, brevity and conciseness should be the goal at all times. Most companies try to keep their job descriptions to one page or less. If a job specification section is included, it is usually put on a separate sheet. Job requirements or duties that are inherent in the position should never be omitted merely for the sake of brevity, but at the same time, it is not always necessary to describe every minute detail of the method employed in performing a particular duty.
The variety of available formats for job descriptions is almost endless. Employers may use more than one format as long as it doesn't make it more difficult to rank or compare similar jobs. In other words, it would certainly be justifiable to use a different format for hourly and salaried employees, but there would be no point in using a particular format for some hourly employees and not others. A sample format is presented below. Not all seven elements discussed earlier in this section are included in the sample. Information can be added to or subtracted from this basic format, depending on a company's needs.
Job Title: Marketing Assistant
Date: January 1, 20XX
Dept. or Division: Marketing
Status: Nonexempt
Reports to: Marketing Director
Job Code: 2376
Written by: Jane Jones
Approved by: Jen James
Position Summary: Describes the general purpose of the job; why the job exists
Essential Functions: Summary of typical duties and responsibilities of the job; may be divided into "essential functions" and "additional responsibilities"
Skills: Lists marketing-related attributes the incumbent should possess (e.g., active listening, writing, persuasion, and social skills)
Knowledge: Addresses the facts and principles of marketing with which the candidate should have a specified level of familiarity (e.g., sales and marketing, business, and customer service)
Attributes: Includes specific abilities an incumbent has that influence his or her job performance (e.g., oral expression, idea generation, deductive reasoning, and written expression)
Experience and Education: Documents requirements related to previous work activities and typical educational background (e.g., Bachelor of Arts degree with course work and job experience in marketing).
To see hundreds of sample job descriptions organized by job title and industry, go to the Job Description Manager tool athttp://hr.blr.com/JDM/index.aspx.
Behavioral job descriptions are an expression of what the individual does in specific and measurable terms, with job objectives stated in the form of behaviors the individual is expected to display. This approach is designed to eliminate the ambiguity that characterizes most traditional job descriptions and that renders them useless for many of the purposes we have already discussed. The advantage of stating job objectives in precise, behavioral terms is that it makes the incumbent's role or function absolutely clear.
By stating job objectives in specific, quantifiable terms, the job descriptions establish goals and guides the employees in their efforts to obtain them. These goals also serve as convenient "benchmarks" against which employees can evaluate their own performances. They know exactly what constitutes satisfactory performance and can, therefore, judge how well they are performing at all times. Needless to say, behavioral job descriptions are an invaluable aid to the company's regular performance appraisal program.
The higher up in the organizational hierarchy, the more difficult it becomes to define a job in written terms, and the more important it becomes to update job descriptions regularly. This is because upper-level managers and executives tend to carry their work patterns with them when they take on new jobs and may end up drastically modifying the duties and responsibilities to which they are assigned. The development of "position descriptions," rather than job descriptions, for these higher-level jobs is one solution to the problem. Some companies have position descriptions as well as job descriptions, and some confusion exists over the proper terminology to use for the document that describes duties and responsibilities.
How do positions descriptions differ from job descriptions? Position descriptions usually differ from job descriptions in the following ways: (1) they stress intangibles to a greater extent; (2) the emphasis is on results as well as on the position's responsibilities, the contribution the work makes to the company's welfare, and the impact of the job on the company's operations; and (3) they usually are written in more general terms and tend to give more weight to relationships and lines of authority (how the position fits into the overall organizational scheme).
Although the variety of position description formats is almost as wide as that of regular job descriptions, the typical description is divided into three or four major sections. Depending on the position to be described and the intended use(s) of the finished product, these sections may be arranged in one of the following ways:
Objective. This is sometimes called "Function," "Summary Statement," "Purpose," "Basic Objective," or "Mission." It states the basic reason for the position's existence concisely and in very straightforward language. It should provide the major factors that distinguish it from other positions. Although this section is often written last, it is always put at the top of the finished description. It often states the purpose of the position in performance-oriented objectives.
Essential functions or accountabilities. This section specifies the essential functions that must be carried out to fulfill the position's basic objective. It lists the important end results that this particular job must achieve. Each item should be a concise statement of what the incumbent must do, accompanied by a statement or clause explaining "why." Each statement should pinpoint an accountability against which some measure of performance can be applied.
Authority. Many companies feel that responsibilities and authority are so inextricably entwined that they combine this with the section on "Essential Duties and Responsibilities." When "Authority" receives separate treatment, this section defines the limits within which the incumbent must operate in performing his or her duties. It specifies the extent of power or authority held by the manager and is sometimes referred to as the "charter" under which he or she operates.
Relationships. This section usually contains three different types of information: (1) the status of the incumbent's superior, (2) the titles of those who report to the incumbent, and (3) internal and external relationships. A discussion of internal relationships might include communication channels, supervision received, and supervision exercised. External relationships usually include the company's relationships with the general public, other corporations, and public agencies.
Accountability objectives. This is another approach to the "Objective" section discussed above, but it states the purpose of the position in terms of performance-oriented objectives.
Dimensions. This section is usually found only in accountability-oriented position descriptions. It summarizes all the statistics that are pertinent to the job, giving the reader a clear picture of the magnitude of the end results affected by the job. It specifies such items as annual production volume and operating budget, average inventory value, capital assets maintained, number of operating plants supervised, and number of exempt/nonexempt, salaried/hourly employees supervised.
Nature and scope. This section is the real "heart" of the position description. It tells the reader what the job is all about (usually in narrative form), emphasizing the following aspects: (1) how the job fits in to the organization, including significant internal and external relationships; (2) the general composition of the supporting staff, including a short summary of each job supervised, if applicable; (3) the technical, managerial, and human relations know-how required; (4) the key problems likely to be encountered by the incumbent; and (5) the existing controls on the job's freedom to solve problems and take action.
Accountabilities. An accountability is an end result or objective that the job exists to achieve, while a duty or responsibility is the means by which end results are achieved. Management position descriptions usually focus on the former, not the latter.
The previous sections provide much information on what should be included in a job description. However, there are a number of things that employers should avoid when crafting descriptions to fit a particular organization. The following do not belong in a job description:
Negative statements, such as "does not answer phone while supervisor is out of the office."
Abbreviations, even if their meanings are well known to the jobholder and the supervisor. All words should be spelled out so that anyone who might refer to the job description in the future will know what it is saying.
Duties that are to be performed in the future, except in the case of a new job that is just being established. The general rule is that a function must have been performed for a period of 3 months before being included in a job description in order for the worker to be familiar enough with it to provide the job analyst with the necessary information.
Occasional or temporary duties. If it is necessary for some reason to add occasional or temporary duties, there should be a notation in the margin opposite these duties, stating that they are temporary or occasional. It should be clear whether these are essential and fundamental to the job or whether they are considered marginal functions.
Generalized statements. When such statements are unavoidable, they should be followed by an example to clarify them. It is usually best to use an example given by the jobholder.
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