Job description is a broad, general, and written statement of a specific job, based on the findings of a job analysis.
It generally includes duties, purpose, responsibilities, scope, and working conditions of a job along with the job’s title, and the name or designation of the person to whom the employee reports. Job description usually forms the basis of job specification.
According to Edwin B. Flippo, ‘A job description is an organised, factual statement of the duties and responsibilities of a specific job’
1. Introduction to Job Description 2. Meaning and Definitions of Job Description 3. Contents 4. Characteristics 5. Need 6. How to Write Job Description 7. Steps 8. Uses 9. Model 10. Utilities 11. Advantages and Limitations 12. Guidelines for Writing an Effective Job Description.
Job Description: Definitions, Contents, Characteristics, Uses, Utilities, Advantages, Limitations and Steps
- Introduction to Job Description
- Meaning and Definitions of Job Description
- Contents of Job Description
- Characteristics of Job Description
- Need of Job Description
- Steps of Job Description
- How to Write Job Description
- Uses of Job Description
- Model of Job Description
- Utilities of Job Description
- Advantages and Limitations of Job Description
- Guidelines for Writing an Effective Job Description
Job Description – Introduction
An essential part of job analysis is the creation of job descriptions. A job description is a list of the tasks, duties, and responsibilities (TDRs) that a job entails. TDRs are observable actions. For example, a news photographer’s job requires the jobholder to use a camera to take photographs.
If you were to observe someone in that position for a day, you would almost certainly see some pictures being taken. When a manager attempts to evaluate job performance, it is most important to have detailed information about the work performed in the job (that is, the TDRs). This information makes it possible to determine how well an individual is meeting each job requirement.
Job description includes the job title, a brief description of the TDRs, and a list of the essential duties with detailed specifications of the tasks involved in carrying out each duty. Although organizations may modify this format according to their particular needs, all job descriptions within an organization should follow the same format.
This helps the organization make consistent decisions about such matters as pay and promotions. It also helps the organization show that it makes human resource decisions fairly.
Whenever the organization creates a new job, it needs to prepare a job description. Job descriptions should then be reviewed periodically (say, once a year) and updated if necessary. Performance appraisals can provide a good opportunity for updating job descriptions, as the employee and supervisor compare what the employee has been doing against the details of the job description.
Organizations should give each newly hired employee a copy of his or her job description. This helps the employee to understand what is expected, but it shouldn’t be presented as limiting the employee’s commitment to quality and customer satisfaction.
Ideally, employees will want to go above and beyond the listed duties when the situation and their abilities call for that. Many job descriptions include the phrase and other duties as requested as a way to remind employees not to tell their supervisor, “But that’s not part of my job.”
Job description and job specification are prepared on the basis of the data collected through job analysis. Job description or position description is a functional description of contents of a job. It is a description of duties, responsibilities and activities to be performed, tools and equipments required, working condition and hazards of the job, the relationship of job with other jobs etc. Thus it is a written record of actual and factual contents of job. It tells us how and why a job is to be done and what is to be done. Its main object is to differentiate one job from other jobs.
According to Pigors and Myres, “Job description is a pertinent picture (in writing) of the organizational relationships, responsibilities and specific duties that constitutes a given job or position. It defines a scope of responsibilities and continuing work assignment that are sufficiently different from that of other jobs to warrant a specific title”.
According to Edwin. B.FIippo, “the first and immediate product of job analysis is job description. As its title indicates, this document is basically descriptive in nature and constitutes a record of existing and pertinent job facts.”
Job Description – Meaning and Definitions
Job description is the immediate product of job analysis process. The job analyst prepares a statement of facts in a prescribed blank called job description. Blank contains the findings of the job analysis in descriptive manner and constitutes a record of existing and pertinent job facts. In the words of Edwin B. Flippo,
“The first and immediate product of the job analysis is the job description. As its title indicates, this document is basically descriptive in nature and constitutes a record of existing and pertinent job facts.” Pigors and Myres define the job description as “a pertinent picture (in writing) of the organisational relationship, responsibilities and specific duties that constitute a given job or position. It defines a scope of responsibility and continuing work assignment that are sufficiently different from those of other job to warrant a specific title.”
Smith and Stakeman, “Job Description is a bailed down statement of the Job Analysis and serves to identify the job for consideration by other Job Analysis,”
Maurice B. Cuming, “A Job Description is a broad statement of the purpose, scope, duties and responsibilities of a particular job.”
The job description document discloses what, how and why it is to be done. It classifies the job into various sub-jobs and analyse the nature or each such sub-jobs.
Some of the other important definitions of a job description are as follows:
According to Edwin B. Flippo, ‘A job description is an organised, factual statement of the duties and responsibilities of a specific job’.
According to M. W. Cumming, a job description is a broad statement of the purpose, scope, duties and responsibilities of a particular job.
In sum, a job description should tell what is to be done, how it is to be done and why it is to be done. It describes the contents of a job.
It is a list of job duties, responsibilities, reporting, relationships, working conditions and supervisory responsibilities – one product of the job analysis – Gary Dessler
Job description is a broad, general, and written statement of a specific job, based on the findings of a job analysis. It generally includes duties, purpose, responsibilities, scope, and working conditions of a job along with the job’s title, and the name or designation of the person to whom the employee reports. Job description usually forms the basis of job specification.
Capture all key aspects of your education, work experience and achievements in your profile, says Judhajit Das, chief HR, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance. “It helps if you write detailed job descriptions as it makes it that much easier to be spotted by a prospective headhunter,” he says.
Above mentioned notes is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin has to be known that is needed to provide job description document to every employee in the organisation.
Every employee must be provided with his job description as to how to perform his duties, limitations or boundaries in his duties, to whom he has to report and answerable, code of conduct, punctuality and discipline and safety procedure that is to be followed in case of Performing hazardous jobs (This practice is being followed by few organisations in United States).
Having a job description document with employee, helps employer in dealing with employees especially in the circumstances when an employee proceed legally against employer for rejecting his/her claiming of compensation for the accident happened during the course of employment or for taking disciplinary action against employees who committed wrong.
Circumstances could be like; employees especially who does hazardous jobs, must follow safety measures which are framed by the safety officer to avoid accidents. To those employees if any accident happens, he may claim for compensation on the statutory grounds framed by the Legislature. Here it is the task of HR manager to crosscheck with actual safety measures to be followed and safety measures followed at the time of occurrence of accident.
If it is found that the victim did not follow actual safety measures to be followed, he may not be eligible to claim the compensation. The victim of accident cannot claim that he was not aware of safety measures to be followed while performing such job, since he was already provided with job description document having all details of his job as to how to be in his job.
If it is found that the victim followed actual and safety measures to be followed, the victim has right to claim compensation in accordance with the statutory provisions framed by the Legislature (labour laws).
(In India, Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923 is the law that deals with claiming of compensation by employees who succumbed to accident during the course of their employment) likewise; when an employee proceed legally against employer for taking disciplinary action against employee, it is a task of HR manager to crosschecks with predefined in-disciplinary activities mentioned in the job description which was already provided to that employee.
Job Description – Contents
The following things are mentioned in a job description:
1. Job identification – It may include the job title, alternative titles, department, division, plant, the unit where it exists, code number of the job and so on.
2. Job summary – It is a condensed statement of the primary functions of the job. It may also include a short definition which may be useful as additional identification information if the job title is not sufficient for identification of the job.
3. Duties performed – It is a brief description of the functions performed by the employee, that is, what is being done, how it is done, why it is done and how much percentage of time is to be devoted to each major duty. Job responsibilities are also described, such as those for the custody of funds, for supervision of other workers, for training subordinates and so on. This section of job description is perhaps most important and is relatively difficult to write.
4. Extent of supervision given and received – How many employees and holding what jobs are to be supervised? The nature and extent of supervision that is, whether it will be general or close supervision.
5. Machines, tools and equipment used – The trade names, types, models of machines, tools and equipment are also mentioned, for example, working on lathe machine or drilling machine and so on. What raw materials are to be used and the like are also mentioned.
6. Working conditions – The conditions in which the job holder is to work, for example, noise; temperature; postures, that is, standing, sitting, stooping, walking, climbing, lifting and so on; illumination; working hours, that is, during day time or night hours, overtime, hours of work, rest intervals, dirt; oil; location of the place of work, say office, factory, inside, outside, underground, solitary, gang and so on.
7. Relation to other jobs – Whether it is at the horizontal level or otherwise and details about the flow of work and procedures.
8. Organisational relationship – The position or status of the job in the organisational structures; its position in job hierarchy and vertical relationship; the jobs which are immediately above or below this job; responsibility and accountability to the extent of authority delegated and so on.
9. Hazards involved – Accident risk and health hazards such as nerve strain, eye strain, physical strain, acid, exposure to weather and so on.
10. Pay – Method of payment—hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, piece rate—range of pay from minimum to maximum, bonus and so on required to do the job well.
11. Training and promotion – Whether training or apprenticeship required; if yes, then of what type and duration, basis and line of promotion.
12. Required qualifications of the worker – Skills, experience, education, mental and physical standards, aptitude, attitude and so on.
13. Comments – The job analyst can make his/her comment or additional remark concerning the job.
Almost all good organisations use standard printed forms for filling the job description.
Job Description – 4 Main Characteristics: Proper Title, Comprehensive Job Summary, Completeness and Elasticity
Normally, employers write their own job descriptions but, of late, more and more employers are switching over to the Internet.
There are primarily two main objectives of preparing job descriptions, namely – (a) to help at the time of recruitment and (b) to help at the time of job evaluation.
A good job description should have the following characteristics:
1. Proper title – The job title should be apt and so framed as to make the qualities expected in the job holder quite clear. If the job title is appropriate, then it can be easily separated and compared with other job titles.
2. Comprehensive job summary – The job summary should give a bird’s-eye view of primary responsibilities, indicating and distinguishing principal and primary duties. The relationship with other jobs and for coordinating with other people should be clear and comprehensive.
3. Completeness – A detailed description of a job should be as concise as is compatible with completeness. Every detail should be very precise.
4. Elasticity – Job descriptions should be elastic so as to have scope for making them up to date from time to time. We know it well that most jobs tend to be dynamic, not static. Therefore, a job description can quickly go out of date. Hence, jobs have to be constantly revised and kept up to date. That is, there should be scope for elasticity in the job description.
Other characteristics – Job descriptions should clearly specify the qualities required by the job holder. The limitation of the job activities and the time taken in different operations of the job should be clearly stated.
A job description having these characteristic features will prove effective and present the description of the job in a very realistic manner.
Job Description – Need
Job description is done to derive the following benefits:
1. It helps in grading and classification of job
2. It helps in placement and orientation of new employees
3. It helps in promotion and transfer of new employees
4. It helps in developing work standards and counseling of employees
5. It helps in defining and outlining career path
6. It helps in work measurement and work improvement
7. It helps in health and fatigue study
8. It helps in vocational guidance of employees
9. It helps in avoiding accidents
10. It helps in the grievances procedure of employees.
Job Description – 3 Major Steps of Writing Job Description
Job analyst has to write the job description after consulting the worker and the supervisor. After writing the preliminary draft, the job analyst has to get further comments and criticism from the worker and supervisor before preparing the final draft.
The following modes may be used in writing job description:
(i) Get the questionnaire filled in by the immediate supervisor of the employee.
(ii) Job analyst has to complete the job description form by observing the actual work being done by the employee.
(iii) All the information pertaining to the job should be secured from the worker.
The job analyst has to finalize the job description and write the final draft by using any one or a combination of two or more of the above methods. The job description should-be reviewed and updated after the final draft is prepared.
Job Description – How to Write Job Description?
It is important to note that there is a definite writing style to be used. It is terse and direct, giving the impression of action.
There are many detailed rules, such as:
(1) Start each sentence with an action verb
(2) Use present tense
(3) Use the word “may” when only some workers perform duty and the word “occasionally” when all workers perform at irregular intervals.
The purpose of this style is to facilitate communication and make it complete, concise and clear.
Actually speaking there is no set way of writing a job description, but the following pattern is fairly typical, and used by many companies.”
(1) A paragraph is allocated to each major task or responsibility.
(2) Paragraphs are numbered and arranged in a logical order, task sequence or importance.
(3) Sentences are begun with an active verb e.g. “types letters”, “interviews candidates”, “collects, sorts out, routes and distributes mail.”
(4) Accuracy and simplicity are emphasized rather than an elegant style.
(5) Brevity is usually considered to be important but is largely conditioned by the type of job being analysed and the need for accuracy.
(6) Examples of work performed are often quoted and are useful in making the job description explicit.
(7) Job descriptions, particularly when they are used as bases for training, often incorporate details of the faults which may be encountered in operator tasks and safety check-points.
(8) Statements of opinion, such as “dangerous situations are encountered,” should be avoided.
(9) When job descriptions are written for supervisory jobs, the main factors (such as manning, cost control, etc.) are identified and listed. Each factor is then broken down into a series of elements with a note on the supervisor’s responsibility.
In addition there are four more guidelines suggested by the British Institute of Management Publication:
(1) Give a clear, concise and readily understandable picture of the whole job.
(2) Describe in sufficient detail each of the main duties and responsibilities
(3) Indicate the extent of direction received and supervision given
(4) Ensure that a new employee understands the job if he reads the job description.
Ways to Gather Information about the Duties of a Job:
Preparing a job description begins with gathering information from sources who can identify the details of performing a task—for example, persons already performing the job, the supervisor or team leader, or if the job is new, managers who are creating the new position.
Other sources of information may include the company’s human resource files, such as past job advertisements and job descriptions, as well as general sources of information about similar jobs, such as O*NET (online(dot)onetcenter(dot)org).
There are several ways to gather information about the duties of a job:
1. Employees can fill out a questionnaire that asks about what they do or complete a diary that details their activities over several days.
2. A job analyst can visit the workplace and watch or videotape an employee performing the job. This method is most appropriate for jobs that are repetitive and involve physical activity.
3. A job analyst can visit the workplace and ask an employee to show what the job entails. This method is most appropriate for clerical and technical jobs.
4. A manager or supervisor can describe what a person holding the job must do to be successful. What would the job holder’s outputs be? The analyst can identify the activities necessary to create these outputs.
5. A supervisor or job analyst can review company records related to performing the job—for example, work orders or summaries of customer calls. These records can show the kinds of problems a person solves in the course of doing a job.
The next step is to list all the activities and evaluate which are essential duties. Rate all the duties on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is most important, or rank the tasks according to how much time the person spends on them. Perhaps the ratings will show that some tasks are desirable but not essential.
When people analyzing a job come to different conclusions about which activities are essential, the person writing the job description should compare the listed activities with the company’s goals and work flow to see which are essential.
From these sources, the writer of the job description obtains the important elements of the description:
1. Title of the job- The title should be descriptive and, if appropriate, indicate the job’s level in the organization.
2. Administrative information about the job- The job description may identify a division, department, supervisor’s title, date of the analysis, name of the analyst, and other information for administering the company’s human resource activities.
3. Summary of the job, focusing on its purpose and duties- This summary should be brief and as specific as possible, including types of responsibilities, tools and equipment used, and level of authority.
4. Essential duties of the job- These should be listed in order of importance to successful performance and should include details such as physical requirements (for example, the amount of weight to be lifted), the persons with whom an employee in this job interacts, and the results to be accomplished. This section should include only duties that the job analysis identified as essential.
5. Additional responsibilities- The job description may state that the position requires additional responsibilities as requested by the supervisor.
Job Description – 17 Important Uses
Job description helps the management in the following:
(i) Job grading and classification.
(ii) Transfers and promotions.
(iii) Adjustments of grievances.
(iv) Defining and outlining promotional steps.
(v) Establishing a common understanding of a job between employers and employees.
(vi) Investigating accidents.
(vii) Indicating faulty work procedures or duplication of papers.
(viii) Maintaining, operating and adjusting machinery.
(ix) Time and motion studies.
(x) Defining the limits of authority.
(xi) Indicating the case of personal merit.
(xii) Facilitating job placement.
(xiii) Studies of health and fatigue.
(xiv) Scientific guidance.
(xv) Determining jobs suitable for occupational therapy.
(xvi) Providing hiring specifications.
(xvii) Providing performance indicators.
Job description helps top executives in jointly discussing one another’s responsibilities. Overlapping or confusion can then be pointed out, questions can be raised about the major thrust of each position, and problems of structure can be identified. A job description becomes a vehicle for organizational change and improvement.
Some companies have more than one job description for each job. A detailed version may be used in training and in evaluating a job, while a shorter version may be used in planning and hiring of management.
Job Description – Hackman and Oldham’s Job Description Model
The job description model, designed by Hackman and Oldham, is based on the idea that the task itself is a key to employee motivation. Specifically, a boring and monotonous job stifles motivation to perform well, whereas a challenging job enhances motivation. Variety, autonomy and decision authority are three ways of adding challenge to a job. Job enrichment and job rotation are the two ways of adding variety and challenge.
It states that there are five core job descriptions (skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback) which impact three critical psychological states (experienced meaningfulness, experienced responsibility for outcomes, and knowledge of the actual results), in turn influencing work outcomes (job satisfaction, absenteeism, work motivation, etc.).
The five core job description can be combined to form a motivating potential score (MPS) for a job, which can be used as an index of how likely a job is to affect an employee’s attitudes and behaviors.
Hackman and Oldham’s job description theory proposes that high motivation is related to experiencing three psychological states whilst working:
That labour has meaning to you, something that you can relate to, and does not occur just as a set of movements to be repeated. This is fundamental to intrinsic motivation, i.e., that work is motivating in and of itself (as opposed to motivating only as a means to an end). The work must be experienced as meaningful (his/her contribution significantly affects the overall effectiveness of the organization).
This is derived from:
Using an appropriate variety of your skills and talents – too many might be overwhelming, too few, boring.
Being able to identify with the work at hand as more whole and complete, and hence enabling more pride to be taken in the outcome of that work (e.g., if you just add one nut to one bolt in the same spot every time a washing machine goes past it is much less motivating than being the person responsible for the drum attachment and associated work area (even as part of a group).
Being able to identify the task as contributing to something wider, to society or a group over and beyond the self. For example, the theory suggests that I will be more motivated if I am contributing to the whole firm’s bonus this year, looking after someone or making something that will benefit someone else. Conversely I will be less motivated if I am only making a faceless owner wealthier, or am making some pointless item (e.g. corporate give-away gifts).
That you have been given the opportunity to be a success or failure at your job because sufficient freedom of action has given you. This would include the ability to make changes and incorporate the learning you gain whilst doing the job.
Responsibility is derived from autonomy, as in the job provides substantial freedom, independence and discretion to the individual in scheduling the work and in determining the procedures to be used in carrying it out.
3. Knowledge of Outcomes:
This is important for two reasons. Firstly to provide the person knowledge on how successful their work has been which in turn enables them to learn from mistakes. The second is to connect them emotionally to the customer of their outputs, thus giving further purpose to the work (e.g., I may only work on a production line, but I know that the food rations I produce are used to help people in disaster areas, saving many lives).
Knowledge of outcomes is derived as this comes from feedback. It implies an employee awareness of how effective he/she is converting his/her effort into performance. This can be anything from production figures through to customer satisfaction scores. The point is that the feedback offers information that once you know; you can use to do things differently if you wish. Feedback can come from other people or the job itself.
Knowing these critical job descriptions, the theory goes, it is then possible to derive the key components of the design of a job and redesign it –
i. Varying work to enable skill variety
ii. Assigning work to groups to increase the wholeness of the product produced and give a group to enhance significance
iii. Delegate tasks to their lowest possible level to create autonomy and hence responsibility
iv. Connect people to the outcomes of their work and the customers that receive them so as to provide feedback for learning.
Job Description – 16 Important Utilities
Job description is useful for the following field:
(1) Promotion and transfer of employees.
(2) Organisational change and development.
(3) Health and fatigue studies.
(4) For job classification.
(5) Work measurement and work improvement.
(6) Developing performance standards.
(7) Placement of new employee on a job.
(8) Orientation of new employees towards basic duties and responsibilities.
(9) Determining jobs for occupational therapy.
(10) Framing questions to be asked in the selection interview.
(11) Employee counselling and vocational guidance.
(12) Defining the limits of authority.
(13) Locating faulty work procedures and duplication of paper.
(14) Defining and outlining career paths.
(15) Investigating accidents.
(16) Redressal of grievances relating to duties and responsibilities.
Job Description – Advantages and Limitations
Advantages of Job Description are:
1. Helpful in recruitment and selection.
2. Helpful in working out training and development programmes.
3. Helpful in transfers, promotions and demotions.
4. Reduces frustration among workers to a great extent.
5. Reduces grievances of workers to a considerable extent.
6. Helps in giving directions to newly recruited workers.
7. Helps in determining wages and allowances.
8. Helps in matching the workers with the job.
Although written job descriptions have been developed by many companies as an attempt to define clearly and without ambiguity the duties and responsibilities of each job, a job description can be either an asset or a liability, depending on the way it is used.
Job descriptions can be assets if they cover every position in the organisation, offering an operational view of the whole and showing that every job in the enterprise has been designed and analysed as an integral part of a total effect. Job descriptions can be more useful for the organisation in case these are supplemented by coaching on the job so that every employee has a position guide.
However, if the job descriptions are incomplete, immaculate, ambiguous, out of date or giving rise to suspicion or confusion, then these can be a liability. Besides, simply singling out only lower-level job for job descriptions is also not a good practice.
Job Description – Guidelines for Writing an Effective Job Description
Job description acts as a guide that provides complete information about a job to the HR department, supervisors, and employees. However, if the job description is not written properly, it would provide the distorted information, which in turn leads to fall in the employees’ performance. Therefore, proper care should be taken while writing a job description.
The essentials points that are required to be mentioned in a job description are as follows:
i. Job title
ii. Hiring department
iii. Reporting authority
iv. Job location
v. Overall responsibility
vi. Key responsibility areas
vii. Working environment
viii. Educational and professional qualification and certifications if any
ix. Relation to other jobs.
Ernest Dale has provided certain guidelines that should be considered while writing a job description.
These guidelines are as follows:
i. Including the nature and scope of the job in the job description.
ii. Making the job description concise, specific, and realistic
iii. Avoiding statements of opinion
iv. Explaining all the responsibilities of a particular job in detail
v. Defining the degree of supervision clearly
vi. Using specific and explicit words to represent the kind of work, the extent of complexity, the degree of skills needed, the degree to which problems are standardized, and the extent and type of accountability.