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Get it in writing: Creating effective and legal job descriptions

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Office Management,Time Management

Job descriptions are the cornerstone of communication between management and staff. Good job descriptions make sure bosses and employees alike know what kind of performance is expected. They’re the basis of every effective performance-appraisal system.

Carefully drafted job descriptions can help you if an employee sues you. For example, a court considering an ADA lawsuit will review what the organization has identified as the job’s “essential functions” to see if the charges have merit. Without a written job description, the court may decide for itself which functions are essential.

Key job description elements

Some job descriptions can be brief; others might require several pages. At a minimum, a job description should include these elements:

Title of position. Titles carry a great deal of weight in the workplace—and in court. Ensure the title matches the level of authority and responsibility. Ensure consistency throughout the organization. For example, all administrative assistants should be doing roughly comparable work.

Avoid offering inflated titles for everyday work. If you call your shipping clerk the “director of distribution,” a court hearing a discrimination case may wonder why she isn’t being paid the same as other “directors.”

Department/supervisor. Include the title of the employee’s direct supervisor, the department name and other identifying details that separate this position from others. Refer to supervisors by job title, not the names of the people who currently hold those positions.

Essential functions/qualifications. An item-by-item list of the job’s duties and responsibilities is the core of the description. To identify essential functions, look at the purpose of the job, the frequency with which each function is performed and the consequences if that function isn’t performed properly.

Four key categories to consider:

1. Physical skills (e.g., standing, walking, lifting, bending)

2. Learned skills (e.g., equipment proficiency, industry experience)

3. Job duties (e.g., travel, hours, shifts)

4. Behavioral skills (e.g., communication, leadership, time management)

The job description should also include the nonessential and less-frequent job duties and functions.

Results expected. Duties are just half of the equation. What do other employees, departments and customers count on this person to do? Include expectations relating to deadlines, customer service and company success.

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