Job descriptions are an important part of the employment relationship. Once we complete, modify or update the job description, we might assume that the work is done. However; essential functions, duties, technology, responsibilities, etc. can and change throughout the employment relationship. As leaders, we need to review job descriptions and ensure these documents are up-to-date with accurate responsibilities and essential functions. The link at the end of the article provides additional information on legal cases in which a job description protected the employer and one that harmed the employer.
Below are 5 thoughts on job descriptions:
- Current and Accurate: Keep all job descriptions current and accurate. These descriptions can be reviewed during the annual review process or throughout the year. Ask the employee for input on duties and responsibilities. They should know the job!
- Essential Job Functions: Ensure that the essential job functions section is accurate and up-to-date. Physical skills should be included in the essential functions or in another area of the job description. Is prolonged walking or standing an essential function? What about lifting material? How many pounds and how often? This should also be included in the job description. Do not forget time spent at a desk. If the job requires 6-8 hours on the computer, this should be included. This section can be lengthy or detailed.
- FMLA Leave: “If the job description is out of date when an employee seeks FMLA leave, create a current and accurate list of essential job functions, indicate in the designation notice that the employee will be required to submit a fitness for duty certification addressing his or her ability to perform his or her specific job, and provide the list of essential job functions with the notice.”[i]
- Approval and Signature: My recommendation is to have more than one individual review and approve the job description prior to finalizing the draft. There should be a signoff/approval process to ensure we have not missed anything. Once the description is approved, the employee should review and signoff on the job description.
- Internet Search: It is easy to search the internet and find thousands of job descriptions. However, this does not mean the information is legal, up-to-date or fits the job within your organization. O’net and SHRM are great resources when drafting or updating job descriptions. These can be used as templates and resources, to help lay the foundation of a job description that fits the needs of your organization.
As jobs and responsibilities change, so too should job descriptions. As leaders, we should ask for input when modifying and updating job descriptions, to ensure accuracy and employee engagement. If you are unsure on where to begin or how to draft a job description, ask for assistance. Do not assume an internet search will provide legal and accurate information. The case below is an example of when an inaccurate job description harmed an employer and references a case in which a job description helped an employer.
– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant