Why a good job description can save you time and money in the future

As an HR professional with more than 20 years’ experience, I still get excited to see a well written and effective job description. Often clients say to me, “It’s just a bullet point list of things to do. And your team knows what to do. So why should we bother?”

As a small business owner, I understand how hard it can be to juggle everything you need to run your business. But it’s important to remember that Job Descriptions are important because they are used in every people-related process of your business. See how:

Hiring People:

Before you can hire someone, you need to know what exactly they will be doing. Writing a job ad for any medium becomes easier and saves time with a properly written job description for the role.

Expert tip: The candidates also need to know what to do and what outcomes you are expecting. And they are more likely to remember and deliver that to you if you give it to them in writing. Have them sign a copy once they have read it and keep it on file for the future.

You also need to know if they require a specific qualification or experience and what personal traits will help them be successful in the role. Working without a position description often leads to miss-hires which cost you time and stress in the future as the person can’t do the job well.

Managing People:

Sometimes it happens. The person we hired isn’t the right fit or isn’t performing in the role the way they are expected. The conversation is easier if you have a job description to refer to, especially if they have signed it to say they understand the expectations from the role.

Expert tip: In my experience, there are always some areas that employees are performing well in, but it is clear what is not working and needs additional focus when you go through the position description.

Instead of being a dreadful conversation, it is turned into a coaching opportunity and the person has something to go back to when they are reflecting on their performance and identify whether they can improve on this or the role is not the right fit for them.

Developing People:

As you are managing the performance against the position description it is simple to see which parts of the role need additional training. Take one part of the role and go over the process or skills required. Once completed repeat for the next.

Expert tip: During probation, we highly recommend that on a weekly basis you are ticking off the skills and / or processes listed in the position description that your new employee can complete independently. If as you are nearing the end of the probationary period and this is not happening, it is time to think about whether this person is the right one for your business. Letting them go during probation is so much easier than doing it later.

Paying People:  

There has been a lot written recently about the inequity of wages and salaries. If you have people on the same position description they should be paid around the same amount. I’m not saying that you can’t reward for performance, but if one person’s performance is 30% better than another member of the team, you should be checking out the Managing People and Developing People comments more carefully.

Expert tip: Reward exceptional performance with bonuses or other recognition but keep some parity when looking at base rates. Doing this will help attract greater diversity into your business and keep discrimination claims at bay.

Protecting People:

As an officer of a company, we business owners are responsible for the safety of our teams and visitors. But the WH&S legislation ensures that this is a shared responsibility with all your employees, contractors etc.

Expert tip: Reminding employees in their job description that they have a duty of care to others is essential and WH&S best practice. Knowingly turning a blind eye to a safety risk is putting you and the employees in harm’s way legally as well as physically.

Communicating with People:

A well written position description includes a summary of who you are as a business, your vision for the future and how their role fits into that objective. You have the opportunity in the position description to set the expectations for their behaviour and create the culture you want and need to drive your business forward. Creating that clarity is essential to creating a profitable, successful business.

So, this one simple document is a powerhouse of People Management. It allows you to make informed decisions about new hires, manage performance, avoid lawsuits and establish a business with shared goals and vision.

Investing in quality position descriptions gives your business so many benefits and makes the life of a business owner or manager easier. If you don’t have them in place, now is the time to get started. Next week we will take you through the things to include and what makes a great position description.  

About the author

Therese Ravell is an innovative Human Resources strategist with over 20 years’ experience across a diverse range of industries. Now, as the director of Impact HR, she provides HR guidance and support to other small business owners and managers for all their people needs.

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