April 19, 2016

Making job descriptions work for your organization

More than an open position posted online, job descriptions can function as an integral part of an organization’s business plan. Over many years spent writing job descriptions on behalf of our clients and reviewing job descriptions for compensation projects, we have learned a few best practices. In this post, we highlight how job descriptions can enable strategic initiatives, serve as the cornerstone of regulation compliance, and expedite day-to-day human capital-related processes.

Enable strategic initiatives

Whether your organization is considering a restructuring, launching a compensation study, or evaluating workflow processes, job descriptions will be required at some point in the process. We have seen these types of initiatives get bogged down by incomplete or outdated job documentation (for example, we add at least six weeks to a Fair Labor Standards Act audit when job documentation needs to be gathered first). Preparing the job documentation in advance will allow your organization to react quickly to strategic initiatives instead of kicking off a project-within-a-project and slowing down the process.

Prevent compliance-related issues

Do you need to consider a reasonable accommodation to an essential job duty due to disability? Review a position to evaluate whether the role is exempt from overtime provisions? Defend pay practices for a group of employees due to a discrimination claim? Do you want a health care provider to have accurate job details when evaluating whether an employee requesting a leave is able to perform the duties of the job? These are all compliance-related examples that an employer may face where valid and well-written job descriptions not only aid the process, but also can help deter lawsuits (or at least put your organization in the best defensible position possible).

Support human capital-related processes

Organizations use job descriptions every day to aid performance reviews, build development plans, identify career opportunities, or recruit for job openings. Perhaps the most recognized use of job descriptions, these necessary details enable a mutual understanding of expectations and requirements between an organization and its current and potential employees.

Regardless of your organization’s immediate goals, devising a plan to support the development and maintenance of job descriptions offers a range of long-term benefits. Here are some tips to make the job description process successful:

1. Work in smaller sections of your population. Set a schedule by department, location, or whatever makes sense in your organization to break the process into smaller chunks.

2. Set an overall deadline that is the same each year. Performance review season seems the most natural time to dust off the job descriptions and discuss any changes with the incumbent.

3. Engage employees in the process—they know their jobs best. Asking employees to complete a job analysis questionnaire is a great way to get started.

4. Set the length, level of detail, and format appropriate for your organization. Job descriptions should be a reflection of your culture and values.

5. Use technology or a third party to ease the burden within your organization. Your organization may not be staffed to meet the scale of a project like this, so consider utilizing a partner with the staff and expertise to make the project successful.

This post is a collaboration between CBIZ Human Capital Services’ Loraine Feldmeier, Compensation Associate, and Joe Rice, Project Manager, Compensation Consulting.

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