Why Job Descriptions Matter Now More Than Ever

By Admin - April 16, 2020

Every so often, something comes along that challenges our current thinking about how work is done. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19), a pandemic that has rapidly made its way across the globe, has led business leaders to question the soundness of their policies and processes. Under the circumstances, most companies are doing a fair job at responding to this crisis, relying on generic crisis plans or mimicking the actions taken by other businesses, but what lessons can we learn from this situation to better prepare for future crises that disrupt work?  

Aside from the very real concerns of how to protect the health and job security of our employees, we also face questions of how to best manage, guide, and assess our employees while they work from home. For some of you, the transition was relatively easy because you may already have employees who work remotely. At HRTMS for example, we have employees who work remotely both in the U.S. and abroad and have the processes and policies in place to handle the adaptation. Others, however, may have been completely taken aback and are scrambling for guidance on how to assess performance without having the ability to visually observe the work being done. So, what are you to do to prepare for the next time, and there probably will be a next time, a situation arises that disrupts work? Well, you first must assess your job descriptions.

Before I get into why job description are so important I don’t want to go on without saying that you also must make sure your policies are clearly defined, that employees know what to expect, that virtual communication channels are implemented and utilized, that equipment be made available for employees to work remotely, and that security measures such as securing devices used for work purposes be executed. But that is not what this article is about; it’s about how a job description can be your best asset when defining expectations for both in-house and remote workers alike.

A job description is NOT just a document that lays out the basic functions of a job; it is THE tool, THE asset that everything in HR depends on. Without an accurate job description, you cannot assess the performance of an employee or pay them fairly, define training programs, address compliance requirements, or define career paths. Job descriptions describe the work to be done in detail, the qualification and expectations, both conceptual and physical, of the job and provide a yardstick for which performance can be measured.

When assessing whether your job descriptions accurately guide employees while they work remotely, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can your employees easily access the latest, most up-to-date version of their job description?
  2. With that said, are your job descriptions current and do they accurately describe the duties, responsibilities, requirements, qualifications and expected outcomes of that job?
  3. Are the essential functions of the job worded in a way that those responsibilities can be accomplished in any environment – whether in the office or at home?
  4. Do performance check-ins derive from details contained in the job description?
  5. Can employees refer to their job description after receiving feedback about their performance?

​It is too early to accurately predict the full impact COVID-19 will have on our business norms. However, it has already been made apparent that our processes are not ironclad. We can no longer solely rely on visual oversight to guide employees and assure productivity. We must make proper use of the tools we have at our disposal, job descriptions being one of them, to clearly define role expectations so that employees feel knowledgeable, empowered, and appreciated. 

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