Saturday, September 27, 2008

Position descriptions

I received a note asking about job descriptions. The writer (a former intern) recently accepted a new position and was struck that the company had no formal job descriptions.

I am a strong advocate for position descriptions for many reasons. It can sound rigid and restricting but I find that accurate job descriptions are key. They help with direction. Give a big picture of what's going on. Lay a foundation for what's expected. Provide structure.

1. Accurate position descriptions provide a roadmap to the employee and the supervisor. I differentiate position descriptions from task lists. An accurate job description should provide the employee with a good overview of what's expected; what to do but not how to do it.

2. Good job descriptions can help if problems arise. When we have a problem, ANY problem, the job description is the first place we start. Positions and work expand - in volume and scope. During our annual performance reviews, we ask our employees and supervisors to review position descriptions. This helps keep people on track and in agreement with the goals of the department and mission of the organization.

3. When positions change and it is evident not only in what's performed but then what is officially expected in the position, compensation changes. It helps in effective and fair compensation administration.

4. Good job descriptions WON'T fix problems. Supervisors who don't want to address issues may try to change dynamics with new job descriptions. Unfortunately, you can't fix on paper what needs to be addressed in person. Revolutionary, I know but true.

So to my writer, I recommended the following. Write up the top 5 or so things for which you are responsible. Keep that list active and accurate. Track your accomplishments relative to your list. When you meet with your supervisor, refer to the list and confirm that you are on the right track. Whatever way works for you, maintain a list or journal of your responsibilities. This will help not only in your annual review, it will also help in positioning yourself for advancement and raises! Good luck!

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