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Keeping job descriptions current and accurate

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Human resources experts estimate that half of all jobs have outdated, inadequate or inaccurate job descrip­tions. Fortunately, it's not hard to master the mechanics of preparing a job description that fully and accu­rately reflects the true requirements of the position. As a front-line manager, you're in the ideal position to start the process for jobs in your area.

Here are some suggestions on how to do this quickly and easily:

1. Log what actually happens. Start the description writing process by having people who now hold the job take notes for a day, a week or a month on what they actually do. Choose the shortest period that will cover nearly everything they normally encounter.

2. Compile real job require­ments. Combine these notes into a single list of activities and their asso­ciated skills. For example, contract preparation might require typing, familiarity with legal terms and the ability to follow marked up changes on early drafts. Client contact might call for good communication and negotiation skills, plus the ability to listen carefully and take reliable notes.

3. Check for accuracy and com­pleteness. Review the list for obvious errors or omissions. For insurance, ask your boss or other supervisors to do the same. You might even ask cus­tomers or others outside your group to comment on requirements for the positions they come in contact with.

4. Make it sing. Convert the edited list into a narrative description that shows how all the activities fit together. For example, describe how work flows into and out of the position, how the job-holder interacts with others, where time and quality pressures occur most often, and what performance criteria count the most in evaluations.

5. Review it regularly. Some organizations tie job descriptions to performance reviews. The supervi­sor not only evaluates the employee against the job description, but the job description against the employee's recent activities. Try reviewing and revising job descriptions regularly, and you'll find that changes tend to be small and easy to make.

Bottom-Line Idea

As a manager, it's critical that you refrain from making poorly thought-out promises. In particular, avoid offhand commitments regarding job security, salary increases, bonuses, and the like. For example, it's dangerous to try to make a team member feel appreciated by saying, "You'll always have a job here," or anything similar. In case after case, courts are treating such remarks as implied contracts that must be honored.

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