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What's in a job description?

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Do you know what your employees do in their job? No, really, do you know what tasks they are expected to perform and what goals they are expected to meet? If not, then maybe your employees don't either.

It's time to get those job descriptions in writing. But what do you include? The primary purpose is to identify the essential functions of a particular job. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), essential functions are identified as those that are fundamental to the position (as opposed to marginal).

Knowing the essential functions of each position will allow you to effectively assess an employee's performance in that position and to determine whether a person you are interviewing is qualified to perform those functions.

Here are some questions to answer when preparing or evaluating a job description:

  • What are the end results or objectives of the position? Why does the job exist?
  • What duties are required for the position to exist? Estimate the percentage of time spent in each.
  • Is there tolerance for a new person's learning curve?
  • What responsibilities or duties are performed occasionally or in addition to the essential duties?
  • What are the supervisory responsibilities associated with the position? How many and what type of employees does this person supervise?
  • What are the knowledge and skills that are required, preferred and/or desirable?
  • Does the position include any budgeting responsibilities or other fiscal responsibility?
  • To what extent does this position require contact with the public? Customers? Vendors?
  • Are there any physical demands? (walking, lifting, etc.)
  • List the usual work hours, necessary travel and any other working conditions or environmental considerations applicable to the position.
  • What, if any, person or position can serve as back up for this position?

Clearly articulated job descriptions can lay the groundwork for clear expectations for both the employee and the employer. If you've not already written job descriptions, ask your employees to list their duties and responsibilities. Compare their list with your expectations. Do they match up? If not, discuss the matter with your employees. This is a great opportunity to clarify duties and expectations. e