Positives and Negatives About Job Descriptions

You Can Develop and Use Them for Your Benefit

Low Section Of People Waiting For Interview On Chair
••• Manop Phimsit / EyeEm / Getty Images

Employee job descriptions are written statements that describe the duties, responsibilities, required qualifications and reporting relationships of a particular job. They are based on objective information obtained through job analysis, an understanding of the competencies and skills required to accomplish needed tasks, and the needs of the organization to produce work.

Employee job descriptions identify and spell out the responsibilities of a specific job. They also include information about working conditions, tools, equipment used, knowledge and skills needed, and relationships with other positions including the immediate boss.

Effectively developed, employee job descriptions are communication tools that are significant to your organization's success. Poorly-written employee job descriptions, on the other hand, add to workplace confusion, miscommunication, and make people feel they don't know what is expected from them.

If you use employee job descriptions as living, breathing documents that are updated regularly to reflect the changing requirements of each employee, these descriptions can become more of a job plan than an irrelevant document.

Positives about Job Descriptions

Job descriptions provide the following:

  1. Provide an Opportunity to Communicate Your Company Direction and Inform Employees How They Fit Into the Big Picture: Whether you're a small or large business or a multi-site organization, well-written employee job descriptions will help you align employee direction with the direction of your senior leadership.
    Alignment of employees with your goals, vision, and mission spells success for your organization. As a leader, you're guaranteeing the trans-functionality of all of the positions and roles needed to satisfy your customers.
  1. Set Clear Expectations About What You Expect From People: Ferdinand Fournies, in Why, Don't Employees Do What They're Supposed to Do and What To Do About It? says that worker expectation is the first place to look if people aren't doing what you want them to do. He says you need to make certain that all employees clearly understand your expectations—and that understanding starts with the employee job description. It holds true whether you're recruiting new employees or posting jobs for internal applicants.
  1. Help You Cover Yourself Legally: As an example, for compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), you'll want to make certain that the description of the physical requirements of the job is accurate down to the letter.
  2. Help Organizational Employees, Who Must Work With the New Hire, Understand the Boundaries of the Person's Responsibilities: People who have been involved in the hiring process are more likely to support the success of the new employee or promoted coworker. Developing employee job descriptions is an easy way to involve people in your organization's success.

    Remember, as you develop employee job descriptions, recognize that they are one component in an effective performance management system. Consider these warnings about employee job descriptions.

    Negative Potential of Employee Job Descriptions

    Employee job descriptions have their downside, including the following: 

    1. They Become Outdated in a Fast-Paced, Changing, Customer-Driven Work Environment: You must supplement employee job descriptions with regularly negotiated goals and developmental opportunities, at a minimum, quarterly—preferably monthly. It requires the employee to meet with the boss, or the team, to establish the next set of specific, measurable objectives.
      This meeting must also be realistic. If the employee receives new goals and is still responsible for every task listed in the original employee job description, this is unfair.
      Especially, if the goals and job accomplishments are tied to salary or bonus, you must take a look at where the employee is investing his or her time. If the employee job descriptions provide an inaccurate picture, change the employee job description.
    1. Don't Always Have Enough Flexibility so Individuals Can "Work Outside of the Box.": Employee job descriptions must be flexible so that employees are comfortable cross-training, can help another team member accomplish a task, and have the confidence that they can make appropriate decisions to serve their customers.
      You want people who are comfortable taking reasonable chances to stretch their limits. 
    2. Don't Always Provide for Reviews of an Employee's Day-To-Day Work.: In addition to the updating of regular goals and objectives suggested, employee job descriptions are an integral part of the performance management and evaluation system. They are used to determine salary increases and bonus eligibility.
      They are a job reference for determining how an employee spends her time at work on a daily basis. They provide a measurable focus for energy and attention. 
    1. Can Sit Unused in a Drawer and Therefore Are a Waste of Time: Employee job descriptions must be integral in your hiring selection process.


    You can use employee job descriptions to obtain employee ownership and to trace the parameters of the skills and abilities you seek for the position. When hiring, well-written employee job descriptions can help you make sound hiring decisions. And hiring the right team is critical to your future success.