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What to Include in an Effective Written Job Description

March 10th, 2011

job-description.jpgAs a small business owner/operator you must define the specific functions of each job position you have in your organization. This helps you focus on the main duties you wish an employee to perform in a specific job function. The written job description also serves as a guide to employees, who can see on paper what their essential duties will be.

The written job description is a document of expectations. You expect certain tasks to be performed at certain times, in a certain way. Employees who adhere to the indications in the job description have a road map that can guide them into growing as a valued members of your organization.

The job description contributes to an orderly running of business. It’s an aid to profitability because it assists employees in concentrating on the goals you have for your company in general - and the specific position in particular.

The following are the necessary elements to include in an effective written job description:

Title

Having an official title for a position is important. It defines the job in a few words, or in a single word. “Sales Associate” is a title that immediately communicates that the primary function of said role is “Sales”. “Inventory Shipper and Receiver” immediately communicates that the job is primarily involved with the movement and control of merchandise. Having a title is important to people. Have one for each position in your company.

Summary of Duties

A summary gives a quick overview of the essence of the job position. It explains succinctly what the employee’s main role will be each and every day they arrive for work. The Summary of Duties helps employees focus on the gist of their role. It also helps the employer focus his or her directions and instructions appropriately to ensure they fit the parameters of this particular position.

Chain of Command or Direct Reporting Protocol

Your employees must know whom they are to report to each day or week, for each task they perform. In a small business it may be you, the owner/operator solely. It may be one or more assistant managers who are subordinate to you. Whoever it is, employees must know the protocol.

This is vital to your business running smoothly each week. It frees owner/operators up to perform other essential duties when employees know they can report to other authorized managers in the organizational chart.

Main Duties (Prioritized)

This is the heart of the written job description. Here you want to list all the important tasks that you expect the employees to address as part of their responsibilities. These main duties are “the job”; they are the reason these employees are being hired for the position.

Prioritize these main duties in order of importance. Don’t rush writing this part of the job description. Give it careful, reasoned thought so you do not omit essential functions necessary to grow your business.

Write down specific tasks that you can measure for performance. An example for a Sales Associate might be “Contact seven preferred customers each week with follow-up phone calls and document this contact.”

That’s a measurable activity, designed to foster continued goodwill with loyal customers. At the end of the week you can look to see whether the employees have performed their duties, as they should have seven documented phone call reports to present to you or an assistant manager.

Necessary Characteristics

Listing necessary characteristics for a position helps when it comes to the hiring process. A potential job candidate can immediately see whether they have the characteristics required for them to be a good fit for a position. A Sales Associate should have a more outgoing personality, with a desire to help people meet their needs. An Inventory Shipper and Receiver should be a multi-tasker who is detail oriented.

Of course, everyone can grow and develop as they become comfortable in a role. However, it’s much more efficient to have someone ready to go in a position because they possess the necessary characteristics right off the bat. This can cut down on training time and limit employee attrition due to people leaving a position they now realize does not suit them well.

Qualifications (as required)

Qualifications are different from necessary characteristics. They involve certain certifications for some positions. They may also involve certain training as demanded by government authorities. In your small business there may be no qualifications necessary.

In fact, many small businesses hire new entries into the workforce who have no experience or qualifications. However, if you do require certain qualifications, it’s important that you document them on the written job description so the potential employee knows upfront.

Objectives/Timelines

In this section you stipulate what you expect the employee to accomplish in his or her new role. You list specific objectives with a time frame for accomplishing these objectives. This is to set them off with goals. This is also for you to see if, within a three-month or six-month period, or any time frame you choose, whether they’re performing to your expectations.

An example of an objective/timeline would be:

New Sales Associates: “Generate 15 new customer sales per week, for the next three months.”

After three months you can measure the exact number of new customer sales for every week within that time frame. This helps you see if the employee is developing as you wish, or needs additional training or maybe a change of job to something more suited to their abilities.

Miscellaneous

Here you can simply list additional information about the position, not included in the above. It helps round out the written job description. It may include minor duties an employee can perform if and when they do complete their main objectives.

A good written job description for each position you have in your enterprise is a vital tool for running your small business effectively. It’s a mark of professionalism. It communicates to employees your expectations and goals for your business, based on quality employee performance.

It’s also a tool employees can constantly refer to make sure they’re on the right path to furthering their careers with your company. In the long run, an effective written job description pays dividends for employer and employee alike.


This article on writing effective job descriptions was supplied by Michael Ugulini from Constant Content.

Related article: Conducting Effective Employee Interviews


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