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The Value of Job Descriptions

job descriptions

Good job descriptions are the Swiss Army Knife of the human resources business

Job descriptions should be right at your fingertips whenever you have an HR matter to address. A principle of organization holds that organization should be based upon the work to be performed, not on the people available to do the work.

People in the company are variable: over time they change, they come and go.  The work is a constant:  it stays the same as long as the function is required.  Job descriptions define the work to be done—enabling you to put people in place to do it.

You know their value for hiring, but they also set the standard for appraisals, compensation, deployment—and potentially for discipline and even termination.  But all that assumes they exist for every position, that they are current, and that they are well-crafted and complete.  Here’s what Navigate believes a good job description will include—why, and what they mean.

Responsibility:  The obligation to perform successfully. 

This list of duties outlines what activities and tasks the position requires.  (You may also have a list of required or desired qualifications, but they should be listed separately.)  When someone accepts a position, they acknowledge their obligation to perform it well.  You cannot delegate responsibility: rather it’s what the employee brings to you.

Authority:  The power to act officially. 

This details what decisions this position can make and actions they can take to fulfill their responsibilities.  When you delegate, it is Authority you are giving—in return for acceptance of Responsibility.  This is often not included in job descriptions and is therefore unclear in the employee’s mind what he or she can or cannot do.

Accountability:  The requirement to report performance to the next higher level of authority. 

This clearly spells out who the position reports to—and on what basis it does so.

Another principle of organization states that Responsibility and Authority must be co-equal or the person cannot be fairly held Accountable.

An employee with more responsibility than authority will be constrained from doing what’s necessary for lack of power or control.

Do you have complete and current job descriptions for every job at your company?  If not, you are missing out on one of the most valuable tools you have.

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