File this one under “Duh!”

Job descriptions are at the root of great employee management. Build a valid description and you’ve aced HR 101.

To an experienced HR practitioner, this seems wholly intuitive: Job descriptions have the power to inspire positive employee engagement and solve a wide range of employee problems, even before they arise. These descriptions are the basis of job content understanding between boss and employee. They are the foundation for effective performance appraisals and corrective action notices. They are also what can protect a company from fraudulent unemployment claims and lawsuits.

I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room: Most business owners understand the need for job descriptions, yet there are many currently operating without these oh-so-so important documents.

Why?

The simplest answer is that they take time to write. Owners and managers have a lot of other things to do and writing a job description can be a formidable task (even HR staff don’t enjoy it) and because, in the rose-colored flush of newly minted employee status, a job description just doesn’t seem that important.

The time to write job descriptions is before difficulties arise with employee performance, job accommodation requests, or confusion around required job functions. Since we cannot predict when these issues may arise, the very best time to create them is before your hire an employee. The truth is, the content of a job description is pretty straightforward. The job description is every employers’ “go to” document to resolve conflicts, and indeed, it’s a rare business that can escape employee conflict.

Writing a job description

Each job description starts with a title and a summary that reflects the position. Job titles affect the way employees feel about their work so it’s important to get it right.

The body of a description includes job tasks which should represent an incumbent’s daily activities and essential functions. Explicit language is important here because the task list sets the groundwork for managing employee performance.

Other parts of a job description can include skill and experience requirements, essential functions, and factors that define acceptable performance levels.

It’s a good idea to get input from the incumbent when building a job description. Job-holders will always find some task to tweak or add; they are, after all, the people who are actually doing the job. Even brand-new employees should have the opportunity to provide input.  This input process is a great beginning for building loyalty and positive engagement.

Positive engagement continues when employees receive regular feedback in the form of frequent, well managed performance reviews.  But, what most people don’t realize is that even negative feedback is better than no feedback.

Employees want to know what they are doing well and what they are not doing well. They respond well with constructive input and feel more accomplished when they meet your expectations. Those performance reviews, along with proper performance improvement documentation, will help protect a company from false claims.

The key to having effective and valid employee performance reviews is to tie them directly to job descriptions. Performance reviews are inherently valid when they come directly from the job description because the content of the job matches the content of the evaluation.

When we use the content of job descriptions to construct performance documents and review processes, discussions can be more objective, predictable, and ultimately beneficial to the employee, the manager, and the organization.

Five benefits of linking job descriptions to performance reviews

Basing performance reviews on job descriptions is:

  1. Good for business: A well-designed performance review process contributes to an organization’s success by improving customer satisfaction, productivity, and profitability.
  2. Great for employees: This is also good for business. When properly scheduled and conducted, employee appraisals are an important tool for boosting employee engagement.
  3. Logical. It simply makes sense to use an original job description when evaluating employees.
  4. Transparent. When the performance review is based on the job description, everyone knows what to expect. No more stress leading up to performance review day.
  5. Protection against fraudulent unemployment claims or lawsuits. When reviews and corrective action notices are tied to the job description, the employer can demonstrate valid reason(s) that termination of an employee was legitimate.

About the JuvodHR tool

The reality is that most people don’t have a lot of experience writing job descriptions or performance review documents, for that matter. That’s where JuvodHR comes in.  JuvodHR has automated the process of managing employees for small business owners and front line managers.

JuvodHR experts built an automated Job Description Creator with over 14,000 job titles covering over 1000 occupations. These job descriptions include tasks, reflecting the content of the job, and work styles, a list of the personal qualities an employee needs to be successful in the occupation. You start with a description from the library and make changes to fit the specific needs of the job. The goal of the Job Description Creator is to give you 90% of what you need in a job description and then let you edit the last 10% to make it specific to your business. New job descriptions are added on a regular basis to keep up the trends in the workforce.  And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, send a note to support@JuvodHR.com and it will be added. Oh, and keep an eye out for some comedy.  About 250 comedy job are included and will appear randomly when certain titles are searched.

You might ask where did all this data come from?  The JuvodHR platform was built using O*NET as a foundation.  O*NET is a living dictionary of America’s jobs, and the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Built and maintained by some of the world’s top industrial-organizational scientists, academics and industry professionals. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is a ten plus year effort being developed under the sponsorship of the US Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA) through a grant to the North Carolina Department of Commerce which operates the National Center for O*NET Development. O*NET surveys America’s job holders to find out what they do on a daily basis and what they need to do it well. By compiling these surveys, experts have created highly detailed, scientifically accurate descriptions of over 1000 different occupations, complete with a list of those personal qualities, (which are called Work Styles), needed for an employee to be successful. JuvodHR has hand curated the data and organized it in a no-nonsense, easy to use format for small business owners.  O*NET profiles JuvodHR in its Products at Work Resource Center.

The science doesn’t stop at the job description, JuvodHR also uses O*NET in the performance reviews. Once you complete a job description using JuvodHR, the software automatically generates a performance review document tied directly to the job description.  This is the WOW moment. Enterprises use many people and expensive software to accomplish this feat, JuvodHR does it automatically. The best way to get consistent results of positive employee management is to link together these two very important documents. Numerical ratings are accomplished through a unique slider system and organized into an easy to read format. The software weights your ratings, runs the statistics, and delivers a final JuvodHR score based entirely in science.  Because the performance reviews are based on the job descriptions, and the job descriptions are based on valid data from O*NET, employees in different jobs can be stack ranked using the Juvod scores. A bookkeeper can be compared to a receptionist who can be compared to a paralegal.

The resulting performance review is complete with suggested feedback language for you to share with the employee based on your ratings. JuvodHR provides a professional report to give to the employee without the numerical ratings. It is recommended to provide employees feedback based on words and not numbers. This helps to keep the discussion about performance and not about money.

Let’s talk just briefly about the stress factor with performance reviews, much has been written about this topic and yet it continues to be an oppressive problem for both employers and employees.

How to eliminate the stress of performance reviews

1) Link the job descriptions to the performance reviews. Both parties will know in advance exactly what the structure of the review will be. The stress from a performance review meeting based on an unknown format is eliminated.

2) Perform reviews on a regular basis, at a minimum quarterly, or as a monthly chat session with your employees in a stress free, positive environment.

Providing employees with regular feedback tied transparently to the job description contributes to positive engagement, which increases productivity, reduces absenteeism, and makes defending against legal scrutiny easier for the business.

Does your business use job descriptions when giving performance reviews? Do you have any questions on how to write job descriptions for your employees? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

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Susan Mravca
Susan Mravca

Susan is a serial entrepreneur, most of her ventures have been in the technology services sector. Susan is currently co-founding JuvodHR, a company that blends her former expertise as an owner and operator of a large Human Resources company with modern software tools for SMB’s to manage employees. She believes small businesses should have access to an expert system in Human Resources the equal of large corporations, but optimized to be simple, fast, low cost and meaningful.