This article is the first in a series of three articles that describes how to get clarity about your present role in your organization and write an effective job description.
Jobs and Job Descriptions
Jobs are the fundamental building blocks of an organization; they evolve to fulfill essential functions of the organization. The organizational endeavor is, therefore, the sum total of the endeavors of individuals at their jobs. It stands to reason that each job needs to be structured and formally defined. A job description serves this purpose: it is a formal detailing of the specific duties of an employee, her responsibilities and span of control.
A job exists to realize the purpose of an organization. For this reason, a job description should focus upward—it should be written primarily to reflect a specific need of the organization. In other words, a job description, for the most part, should describe the role and not the employee that holds the job—not what she can do, should do or wishes to do in her role.
Who Should Write Job Descriptions
Job descriptions help the management examine the structure of an organization and ensure that all the necessary responsibilities are adequately covered. Ideally, therefore, jobs should be defined from the top.
Theoretically, a manager is the most knowledgeable about all the jobs he supervises. He should be responsible for defining and maintaining the job description. However, hardly a few managers are keen on writing effective job descriptions for their employees. Most managers tend to be cursory: they use generic templates provided by their Human Resources or Personnel departments, or, at best, maintain a longwinded list of an employee’s activities. A majority of job descriptions are vague, out-of-date, indistinct and therefore inadequate. Consequently, job descriptions are often ignored in several organizations.
Why You Should Write Your Job Description
One of reasons you may be dissatisfied with your job or performing poorly on the job is that you tend to perform your day-to-day tasks without any formal detailing of your role. In all probability, you are not completely certain of everything your manager expects of you and how you will be measured against these expectations. In other words, a formal job description may not exist for your job, or, if it does exist, it is badly out-of-date, imprecise and inaccurate.
As the job-holder, you are the best person to write a job description for your job since you have the most on-the-ground knowledge of your role. This assumes, of course, that you can develop or have previously developed a sound understanding of what your role requires of you in the context of the objectives of your organization, including those of your supervisor and immediate management.
Additional critical reasons that may lead you to write your job description include,
- Redefinition: The nature of your role has changed due to redefinition of the nature of your business, restructuring, revisions to your organization’s objectives, or change in management or your supervisor-manager. Such changes may lead to a significant disparity between what you have done in the past and what may be expected of you in the new context.
- Transition: When you are moving out of your job, you may consider helping your management recruit a proficient replacement by defining the exact nature of your current role and the skill sets or credentials desirable in potential candidates. A separate blog article will discuss how to identify and define desired characteristics in job candidates.
- Measurement and Feedback: A job description can help setup a well-defined, consistent understanding of expectations and measures that form the bases of formal performance appraisals.
- Promotion or Compensation Review: An exhaustive job description is indispensable to persuade management to assign more resources or responsibilities to you or appraise your role, job title, compensation, or benefits.
Most significantly, you can use this opportunity to precisely define your role, correlate what you do with what is expected of you in your role, and ensure ownership and job satisfaction. This sense of better control and direction will translate to stronger motivation at work.