Not Having Job Descriptions can be a Mistake
5 Tips on Writing Great Ones for Small Businesses
Written by Deanna Hunter
Many small businesses make the mistake of not being clear on who does what. That makes sense in the early days as it’s typically ‘all hands on deck’. However, as you get a few more employees on board things can get complicated. Without even basic job descriptions, you’ll likely end up with people who decide for themselves what their job is and what they’re supposed to be doing. And if you don’t have job descriptions, there’s not much you can do to fix that situation, i.e. how do you reprimand or (gulp) fire someone for not doing their job if you really weren’t clear about what the job was in the first place? Job descriptions are also the foundation for your recruiting activities, compensation decisions, even onboarding and training plans.
So, before this becomes an issue sit down and create some simple job descriptions. It is going to take a bit of time but it will be worth it. Here a few tips to get you started:
- Don’t think about the person who might currently be in the job as you are writing it. Imagine it’s a brand new role that you have determined you need in your organization. This helps you to eliminate any biases you may have for, or against, the current employee in the job and gets you focussed on the job itself.
- Be clear on what the purpose of the role is, i.e. why you need that job at your company, and only then attempt to itemize the tasks or activities the role is accountable for completing.
- Be realistic about what experience and knowledge is required to be successful in the role. In my experience, most managers over-inflate the minimum requirements.
- Use simple and direct language. Don’t get all flowery and full of big words. This document is only for internal purposes anyway – you don’t need to impress anyone. Save that for when you are translating your newly written job description into an exciting job ad for recruiting purposes.
- Don’t forget to put in the reporting relationships – which position it reports to and which position(s) reports to it.
My experience is that writing job descriptions can be a good exercise for managers. It reminds them of what the need was when they hired their people initially and points out any changes or adjustments that need to be made as the business evolves and grows.
Don’t make the mistake of letting your people decide who does what. Eliminate the possibility of confusion, misunderstandings and possibly a messy clean up. Start writing.