Do I need job descriptions for my employees?

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I have been asked this question multiple times in the last few weeks.  As someone who has worked in Human Resources for at least two decades, the importance of job descriptions has been drilled into my head. And based on the questions I get, managers have had that idea drilled into their heads too.  Job profiles and descriptions are a good foundational tool and resources for many things.  But no, it is not required and if you have a small business, creating job profiles or job descriptions may not be the best use of your time and resources.

Here are some cases in which I would recommend you do and why:

  • You hire a lot of the same type of job.  The job description is helpful in advertising the job, completing interviews and getting new employees up to speed in their roles.
  • There is confusion between roles within the organization about who is responsible for what.  Job descriptions provide clarity on responsibilities and accountabilities.
  • You have positions that require specific physical abilities and will not hire someone who does not meet those physical requirements.  If there is a chance you will not hire someone or will let someone go based on physical requirements of a job, it is important to have that requirement documented in job descriptions.  In addition, it should be mentioned in the job announcement and discussed in the interview.  While this could be a risk in any role, it is a larger risk in more physical roles.
  • Employees are not clear on the responsibilities of their role or performance expectations to be successful. As a business owner or manager, I have no doubt that you could describe the employees’ responsibilities. But rather, do they? If you asked employees to list their responsibilities and performance expectations, would what they say match what you would say. If you aren’t sure, ask them and see what they say.
  • You pay employees as exempt employees.  The Department of Labor audits and fines organizations that do not pay their employees in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  FLSA states that all employees should be paid hourly and be eligible for overtime for hours worked over 40 hours per week.  Yes, all employees — UNLESS you can prove that the jobs are exempt from the law.  The best way to prove that a job is exempt from FLSA is to have a job description for the job to complete an exemption test.

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