Effective Tools – Job Descriptions and Handbooks

Much like another HR-related document (the employee handbook), job descriptions come in all shapes and sizes, lengths and languages, depending on a number of factors including industry, company size, and location. Many longer, more detailed job descriptions may include a section detailing overall expectations that apply to all employees, regardless of position. This statement will likely include expectations such as employee conduct and behavior, adherence to policies and procedures, and cooperation with members of management. In essence, a summary of some of the most pertinent and applicable policies from the employee handbook that apply to the job descriptions.

The employee handbook is a document that all employers should not only have, but should review regularly to ensure not only compliance with federal, state, and local law, but that the policies outlined in the handbook accurately reflect the culture of the organization and are worded appropriately. The job description should mirror this, both to make certain expectations are consistently communicated and responsibilities are clearly outlined.

Both the job description and the handbook can serve as an effective resource for managers when dealing with employees on a day-to-day basis. For example, the job description can provide a new employee with the essential functions of their job, but when that employee struggles with their performance a few months down the road, a supervisor can reference both those functions detailed in the job description coupled with guidelines for appropriate conduct in the handbook to ensure the employee is put on an appropriate performance improvement plan.

When written properly and the contents communicated regularly, job descriptions and handbooks tie hand-in-hand and are both documents vital in effective employee management. Both documents relay to employees what is expected of them, explain certain rights and responsibilities, and serve as an effective tool for supervisors in managing their employees.

Job Descriptions and a Tailored Review

Performance evaluations used to be comprised of numerical rankings that that every employee, regardless of their position, was subject to once a year. Many organizations are taking a step back from this standard format and are taking a broader look at performance as it aligns with the individual and their job duties.

As HR Consultants, we have experience working with clients in a variety of industries and as such, have developed and implemented countless performance review systems depending on the unique culture of that company. Years ago, we worked with a client who wanted to develop a review system in which each expectation and job duty on the job description was ranked and reviewed. As you can imagine, this resulted in a very long and extensive performance evaluation. While this is not an approach we typically recommend our clients apply, the general concept of using the job description as part of the review results in an effective and thorough evaluation.

A performance review should be used as a means for improving performance and the job description can be a very useful tool in doing this. Used as a road map of sorts, this document can help managers review how the individual has met the general expectations of their job and can aid in setting objectives based on areas that warrant room for improvement. By using the job description in conjunction with an evaluation form, managers can effectively tailor each review to ensure that their employees (and as a result, the company) get the most out of their annual review.

While classic ranking systems are only slightly relevant to an employee’s actual work, implementing the job description and reviewing duties can also help with employee participation in this process. When the performance evaluation is more focused on the individual and their position, they have more buy in resulting in improved engagement and productivity. This also may prove to be a great opportunity to make necessary tweaks to the job description, making sure that it accurately reflects the position and actual job duties.

Using the job description to help guide you through performance evaluations can aid both the employee and the manager in navigating the review process in a way that is mutually beneficial. Contact HRCentral today to review your current evaluation process and job descriptions and see how a new approach can help take your system to the next level.

Owning Your Job

Most of you who are reading this blog are in a “career” job or perhaps you are in a transitional job (e.g. a semi-temporary job while taking classes), but what does a career really mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines a career as “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” Given that you have chosen your current career-worthy job, what about that position is more than what is described in your job description?

Early in my career, I worked for an ecommerce organization managing the data processing aspects of the company. One week, another department was overwhelmed with requests that required a large amount of calls to be made in a short amount of time. Myself along with other managers and employees jumped right in and starting making the calls (in between our regular duties). We chose to help out that department because it was what the company needed to succeed.

Being a leader in an organization is not about what is written in a job description or the expectations of your position, but rather recognizing the bigger reason for your own position and the organization. Everything you do at work should be focused on pushing the company towards the mission and vision of your organization. That means taking ownership for your part and stepping in wherever and whenever necessary.

Ownership in this use means that you possess the responsibility for your success within your organization. Often your success depends on the success of the company. If you are ever confused about what defines success in an organization, take a look at the mission statement and ask how your position pushes the organization towards that success. Sometimes that means stepping outside of your job description, those “essential functions,” and taking on additional tasks and roles. In addition to helping the company out, personally taking a look beyond your job description can ensure you learn new skills and can help you stand out for future promotions.

HRCentral’s mission statement is simple (Creating Productive, Professional & Peaceful Workplaces). A monumental task for sure, but every day and every service we provide (including this blog post) is designed to further that goal.

What have you done to look beyond your job description?

Who Needs Job Descriptions? Everyone.

Most of us are aware of this HR-related document that identifies what we theoretically are supposed to do in our day-to-day work. However, when was the last time you took a peak at what your Company expects of you or the last time you evaluated what your Company expects your employees to do? This begs the question, what is the real purpose of a job description? A properly drafted job description can be useful for the organization, management, and the employee for reasons such as:

Performance Checkups – Imagine walking into a meeting and being held accountable for something that you had no idea was your responsibility. Unfortunately, this happens more often than it should. With a proper and up-to-date job description, both the manager and employee are on the same page with the standard expectations of the position, easing frequent performance checkups.

Identifying Roles and Value – One of my personal nightmare jobs would be to go to work every day and not understand or realize how I am making a difference. Most employees like to know how their job is important to the Company overall. A well done job description can explain the employee’s role within the organization and how they contribute to its success.

Finding an Employee – An often overlooked step in trying to find an employee for both new and existing positions is a review (or completion) of the job description. If you are limited to basic, generic job descriptions you may find yourself struggling to find the best fit for the job. How do you know what to interview for if you don’t even know the essential functions and expectations of the job you’re trying to fill?

ADA, Leave Protection, and Workers’ Comp – A common concern employers have is what happens if an employee is injured, or if an employee comes back from leave, but needs their job modified? The first place we always start is the job description. A properly done job description not only identifies the duties, but also physical requirements such as sitting versus standing, equipment used, and even how much weight the position is expected to pick up.

Exempt or Non-Exempt – With the recent news regarding the DOL’s attempt at changing the exempt tests (primarily raising the minimum salary threshold), many employers are taking a much-needed look at the FLSA classifications of their employees. Despite the minimum salary increase being on hold indefinitely, employers would be wise to reevaluate the job descriptions of their exempt employees to ensure that they are accurate as far as duties go and that they meet the DOL’s current exempt tests.

The above list is just a sampling of the importance of your job descriptions. HRCentral recommends regular reviews of each job description to not only match what the employee does on a day-to-day basis, but also for compliance with the latest regulations. If in doubt, give us a call and we can assist you in evaluating your job descriptions for completeness and compliance.