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Writing job descriptions the first time around is no easy feat, never mind when the time comes to update them. Despite this, updating a job description and job specification is an incredibly valuable exercise, as these are regarded as the mother of all HR processes.

Recruitment, training, performance evaluations, and compensation are all built upon the foundation of the job description, making it much more than a compliance exercise. In spite of this importance, updating a job description is often placed on the backburner, due to HR’s attention being required elsewhere. Let’s start by clarifying what a job descriptions is, and when it should be updated?

What is a job description?

A job description is a document that details the essential requirements of a job, including the required skills, duties, and responsibilities of the role. When written well, a job description will inform someone how success is measured in the position, and it is for this reason that it can be used in a performance evaluation, amongst other professional processes.

The purpose of a job description

Essentially, job descriptions have six key purposes, as listed below:

  • Defining role responsibilities
  • Attracting top talent
  • Promoting company values and culture
  • Assisting in interview question preparation
  • Informing salary expectations
  • Presenting progression paths and development opportunities
  • Aiding employee evaluations

The risks

As previously mentioned, the task of updating job descriptions is often neglected in favour of other HR responsibilities; however, this could present a real risk for your business. For instance, should an employee file an employment claim against you, an out-of-date job description could do a lot of damage. On the other hand, an accurate and up-to-date job description could be extremely beneficial.

The above impact stems from the legal implications that a job description presents, in which the employee’s essential responsibilities and performance measures are stated. As a result, if an employee is carrying out duties that are not stated or their performance is being measured in a way that is not disclosed in the document, they have the ammunition to bring a case against you.

Regardless of legal implications, an out-of-date job description also means that you are not operating your business in the most efficient manner. A lack of efficiency equates to a lack of productivity, as there is no clear workforce planning, which is essential for the holistic functioning of the company.

The timing

As far as timing is concerned, a job description should be updated once a year at a minimum; however, some circumstances may call for more regular reviews. In the instance that not much is changing, an annual update is ideal to set your employees’ goals for the upcoming year. Although, if your company is growing or changing, more frequent updates may be required, as the required responsibilities of your employees are likely to shift more rapidly.

Everyone has a role

Although the creation and maintenance of job descriptions typically fall under the umbrella of HR, it should be a concern of managers, employees, and HR alike.

For instance, it should be the managers that are actually writing or updating the job descriptions; meanwhile, it is down to HR to review them. After all, the HR department will not know more about the role than the person managing it. It is the duty of HR to manage the employee life cycle rather than what is required or expected of an employee.

In regard to employees, no one knows what is required of a role more than the person who does the job themselves. Therefore, when it comes to accurately updating job descriptions, the employee must weigh in and share what they actually do.

Finally, HR professionals are responsible for coaching and facilitating the update process. As formerly touched on, a job description falls under so many sections of a company, making HR the best department to manage such.

Therefore, the department requires the input of managers and employees alike to accurately describe the job; however, only HR can manage factors such as recruiting, succession planning, training, and legal compliance. Essentially, HR is in the best position to analyse how the job description slots into the wider company while keeping legal obligations in mind.

Potential problems

Updating job descriptions is not necessarily about redefining the role on an annual basis; it is more accurately about understanding how and why job functions are changing. Therefore, if a job description does not match the daily tasks of an employee, they should liaise with their manager and HR to create a new description.

In the instance that an employee is performing tasks that exceed what is set out by their job description, they will often be left feeling undervalued and unrecognised. Consequently, a job description should be adjusted to reflect every duty that is carried out by an employee.

Despite this, job descriptions should not be formed around an individual if they bring an enhanced skill set to the table that is not necessarily required of the role. Instead, you might find a position for the individual that is more suited to their unique requirements.

Update your job descriptions with Paydata

Here at Paydata, we offer a job description support service so you can ensure that all your job descriptions are accurate and up-to-date. Feel free to contact us with any queries or concerns, and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

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