Some small businesses fail to create complete job descriptions. They hire people to fill specific roles and tell them what they’re supposed to accomplish every day, but there are no clear, documented guidelines or expectations for each employee to follow.
In my opinion, that’s a huge mistake.
Written job descriptions are invaluable during the hiring process, for managing employees, and developing onboarding and training for new hires and your existing staff. Let’s look at job descriptions in a bit more detail.
What’s the Purpose of a Job Description?
When I’m hiring a candidate for a new position, I create a job description first. It helps me focus on the key qualities I’m looking for in a particular role, and it allows me to vet candidates from a specific need.
I also update job descriptions as they change. I suggest doing this at least every six months to a year. If you need a marketing employee to assume a new responsibility, for instance, they need to know how their success will be measured. Not only does an updated job description let that employee know, but it help you get clear about your expectations.
A job description serves five distinct purposes:
- Legal: It classifies a worker (g., full-time, part-time, employee, or independent contractor. Job descriptions set clear guidelines for the hiring process so you can fight any claims after a termination. They define essential duties for the role so your business complies with ADA and other regulations.
- Cultural: I want my employees to exude the same values and beliefs that have inspired me to build my business from the ground up. Job descriptions are a big part of that. They create expectations for your company culture that set clear boundaries and expectations.
- Developmental: Think of small business job descriptions as barometers for your team. If one employee doesn’t live up to his or her job description, you’ll know immediately because you’ve put it in black and white. You’ll know when you need to invest in training and employee development to help each team member meet your expectations.
- Compensatory: A clear job description can help you research and determine how much to pay an employee, provide any bonus structure and evaluate the need for compensation changes in the future.
- Alignment: When you write job descriptions, you can clearly see where a duty, responsibility, or other detail aligns with your overall company organization chart and mission.
What Does a Job Description Include?
I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all solutions for entrepreneurs, but you can follow a few best practices for writing effective job descriptions:
- Responsibilities: Create an exhaustive list of duties you expect your employee to fulfill in a particular role. You can also include information about supervisors or subordinates (by position, not by name), depending on the position.
- Conditions: List any working conditions that the employee will have to work in or around. For instance, if the job involves working in a warehouse that doesn’t have climate control, you should include it in the job description. Or if you work from a home office that should be made clear. Other potential factors to write down include the need to stand for long periods of time, lift objects up to a certain weight, climb stairs, or use specific software, tools or equipment.
- Pre-requisites: Does the job require specific experience or education? Does the employee need to possess a license or certification to be considered or advance in the job?
How Do You Make Job Descriptions More Clear?
You don’t want to surprise people once they start working with you. Misunderstandings can cause serious problems. Don’t leave out critical information. Use crisp, clear sentences, and only include one idea in each sentence, bullet point, or list item.
You can convey importance by starting each listed responsibility or duty with a strong verb. For instance, job duties for a customer service associate in a retail store might look something like this:
- Greet all customers warmly upon arrival.
- Upsell customers on related items.
- Assist customers in buying decisions and placing special orders.
- Coordinate with managers to set up end caps and other displays.
- Supervise and train new clerks.
- Input special orders into the POS system.
When you hire a new employee, ask them to read the job description fully. Invite questions about any details that might seem unclear, then ask them to sign a copy of the job description. This will help them have clear view on what is expected on the job. Eliminating misunderstandings at the point of hiring can create productivity or legal hassles in the future.
Do you have job descriptions for your employees? How have they helped you improve and grow as an entrepreneur? Do you have any small business advice for other business owners who might not know how to start writing job descriptions? Share them with our community when you friend me on Facebook.