Job Descriptions: Do Not be Caught Without Them Regardless of the size or complexity of an organization, good job descriptions are vital management tools and required tools for many human resource best business practices. Additionally, they are often requested documents by outside agencies during various types of investigations. While they are not required by law, job descriptions are critical in supporting practically every employment action in the employment life cycle (recruitment, performance appraisal, compensation, promotion, and disciplinary action up to and including separation of employment). Job Descriptions Job descriptions help employees understand exactly what their job responsibilities are so they can focus their attention on the most important tasks first. Job descriptions give managers the guidelines to hire, promote, and supervise with maximum effectiveness. Employers today must comply with a long and growing list of employment laws and regulations. If a hiring or employment decision is challenged by an employee or a regulatory agency, one of the most important documents you will be expected to provide is a copy of the job description. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many state workers' compensation laws, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) have put a new spotlight on not just what people do (the essential job duties) but how they do it (physical demands and work environment). A well-written, thorough job description can help you make the critical decisions necessary to comply with these challenges. At Oasis, we work with our clients to develop job descriptions that are relevant to the employee and valuable to the entire organization. Properly developed and updated job descriptions will assist in aligning your work force’s duties with your company vision and mission. Here is a brief overview of the application of the job descriptions throughout the employment life cycle. Recruitment A job description outlines the duties, tasks and responsibilities to be performed by the applicant. It should be used to develop the job posting by including primary duties, required knowledge and skills, including physical requirements. Refer to it during the interview process using the key job responsibilities to pose questions about the candidate’s ability to meet the prerequisites of the position along with probing questions that will allow you to identify the most qualified person for the job. Orientation Established job descriptions outline priorities for your new hire by detailing the critical tasks. It will also define lines of communication and help them see their role within the organization. It can be useful to use an organizational chart, if available, to maximize the employees understanding of your company’s lines of reporting. Performance Appraisals Referencing the specific job requirements documented in the job description allows comparison of actual performance against those work duties. Keeping the job description updated will allow goal setting that will be an essential part of the appraisal process. This in turn can be the foundation of the company-wide compensation plan that ties responsibilities and goal achievement to monetary rewards. Training and Development Keeping current and updated job descriptions will enable you to determine training development opportunities. This may include coaching and counseling moments, identifying gaps between job requirements and the employee’s performance. This may culminate in performance improvement plans, when necessary. Disciplinary Action- Separation of Employment Using the job description as a means communicating performance expectations, the employee should be aware of what is required of them in their position. When continued performance shortcomings occur, meet with the employee to plan remedial action. With these steps taken you have given the individual every opportunity to correct deficiencies. Continued failure to meet performance standards will make a separation of employment an appropriate final action. Dennis Peterson Dennis Peterson is a HR Business Partner for Oasis, a Paychex® Company. He has more than 30 years' experience establishing relationships with clients to assist with their HR initiatives. Key areas of strategic focus have been assisting clients by identifying areas of legal exposure and providing guidance to minimize liability. In addition, he has implemented personnel policy auditing programs, companywide wage and salary guidelines, and participated in organizational strategic planning. He earned his Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of Iowa.