On Job Descriptions

Why not read our latest blog post, Industrial Strategy Boosting Technical Skills?

Job_DescriptionJob descriptions have four clear purposes in the firm: to guide manager and jobholder when setting objectives, to guide recruitment (in concert with a Person Specification), give guidance to the manager on the relative value of that job against another (in setting salary, planning development and in succession planning) and to guide the job holder. Since there are such clear-cut purposes, it will come as no surprise that there is a very specific way of writing a Job Description such that these needs are satisfied.

There are four areas in the document. The first is the title area where the Job Title, the name of the Job Holder and who they are Responsible To are defined. These need to fit within the overall scope of the organisation and care should be taken here. Many organisations operate matrix management where each jobholder has more than one manager. This should be reflected here.

The second area is the Job Purpose. This needs five or six lines describing why the job exists and why the firm expects to benefit from the role. Avoid putting any accountability statements here. Reserve this area for big-picture stuff.

The third is the Job Scope. It’s here that all the metrics that size the role need to be laid out. Such metrics might cover order acquisition and sales targets, project management scope and number of direct reports. Metrics should be specific and measurable and hence be in terms of money, numbers and geographic locations. The metrics should however be general such that specific objectives and goals can be agreed from time to time. In drafting, treat this section as the place where the job evaluation analyst will concentrate. The more scope and the bigger the metrics the more points the job scores. In many firms, the bigger the job, the more contribution it makes and hence the more the jobholder gets paid.

The fourth and final section is the Principal Accountabilities. These are seven or eight statements that define what the job holder will actually do. The final accountability should always be a statement that the job holder can also be asked to undertake such other tasks within their competence as may be agreed from time to time. This avoids the claim “it’s not in my job description”. These accountability statements are of the form ‘do something, to something, to achieve a result’ and hence there are three parts to each. These statements are about responsibility and accountability and hence they are not a list of ‘duties’.

An example of an accountability might be ‘manage (do something) projects (to something) to achieve planned gross margins (to achieve a result). Leaving the measure as that to be agreed allows improvements to be planned and new objectives to be set without having to edit the Job Description and hence in this accountability the phrase as agreed from time to time should be added. A further example for a person with sales responsibility might be to ‘quote for work, visit customers and close sales to achieve annually agreed targets’.

This last section allows the necessary competencies to be determined by asking ‘what competencies and behaviours are needed to excel in this job?’ From that comes qualifications, skills and experience. These form the basis of recruitment and of a Person Profile. It also allows would-be recruits to tell if they can do the job and indeed if the job sounds interesting.

Finally, Job Descriptions should use simple language but be very specific in message. Aim to cover everything in just two sides of A4.

TimelessTime consultants have prepared many hundreds of job descriptions. If you would like TimelessTime to write your firm’s job descriptions or complete a comprehensive job analysis, do contact us today. Also see www.timelesstime.co.uk and search under ‘job descriptions’ for more information.

Managing people is complex. Get specialist help.

Call Us Today