The Importance of Job Descriptions
On June 8, 2021, HR Advisor Jane Disher, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader and Senior Employment Counsel, Ciana Williams, delivered a webinar on Effective Job Descriptions. Jane opened the webinar by discussing the basic components of a job description:
- Description of job duties and responsibilities
- Description of important job features
- List of required skills and experience for the position
- Information about the general nature of the work
Job descriptions are used to communicate essential job functions, hold employees accountable, manage employee performance, and provide a basis for classification of the position as exempt or nonexempt under Department of Labor guidance. According to Disher, job descriptions should answer these five questions:
- What is to be accomplished?
- Why is the job done?
- How much authority will the incumbent have?
- How will the success of this position be measured?
- Who will this person be reporting to and working alongside?
When writing job descriptions, Jane explains the importance of outlining essential job functions, defining what success in the position looks like, and utilizing understandable terminology. Her biggest recommendation to members is to review and update job descriptions yearly. Human Resources professionals should be asking, “Does this still make sense?” If necessary, speak with the current employee and manager to see what has changed and what has remained the same.
Williams focuses her portion of the webinar on legislation affecting job descriptions, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualified individuals with a disability and must provide reasonable accommodations to candidates or employees who can perform the essential job functions. When navigating the ADA, Williams explains that it is imperative to include essential functions in job descriptions and postings. When writing job descriptions, employers should be thinking about the following:
- Examine the needs of the position rather than someone to replace the previous employee
- Consider the desired outcome or result of the duty
- Determine if the work is to be performed on site
- Define business hours
- Determine which responsibilities are essential and which are not
- Consider how the work could be done rather than how it is currently done
Employers should keep in mind physical and environmental factors and conditions when creating job listings; however, employers should not list the same physical requirements for every job unless they share the same physical requirements. In addition, do not include sight and hearing as job requirements unless they are actually required.
If you have any questions about whether or not a job function is essential or job descriptions in general, call or email the MEA Hotline.