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Job Descriptions for Determining Proper Spans of Control

If the job descriptions in a manager’s domain show that jobs are significantly different from each other, it is likely the number of jobs the manager should supervise is relatively small. If, on the other hand, job descriptions show jobs to be considerably alike--similar kinds of work requiring similar skills--it is likely the manager should supervise many of them.

Take the time to plan your next job description and learn how to maximize your office workflow.

Also, by studying job descriptions, a determination of the complexity of work can be made. If the jobs in a given domain are highly complex, such as electrical engineering jobs, it is prudent to have relatively few jobholders under a given supervisor. If, however, all jobs are routine, involving just a few, highly repetitive tasks, one manager can supervise many employees. Job descriptions can give thorough insight into just how large a manager’s span of control should be.
 
To discover opportunities for improving intrinsic work design:
 
By studying a job description one can learn about the appropriateness of such job dimensions as task variety, work cycle length, and task depth. Other intrinsic dimensions of a job such as the task mix (task integration, functional similarity of tasks, operative/supervisory mix, etc.), task complexity or difficulty, the amount of task uncertainty, the degree of job autonomy, the degree of authority attached to the position, the degree of task identity and significance, task sequencing, the rate of task set change, the volume of work, and the degree of task challenge can also be discerned by careful scrutiny of the job description. Recommendations for intrinsic design change that will allow the employee to execute at a higher level of proficiency can be made after analysis of the job with the job description.
 
To discover opportunities that improves extrinsic work design:
 
A well-developed job description describes what the physical and social contexts of the job are like. By studying these environments with the help of the job description, one can spot ways to make the physical setting more conducive to performance through such means as temperature and humidity adjustment, noise control, lighting change, and so on. Various insights into factors associated with the social environment that affect performance--such as the frequency with which the worker interacts with others, the number of other employees with which the worker interacts, the physical proximity of other employees to the worker, the kinds of work issues requiring multiple employee involvement--are also gained by analyzing the job description. Analysis of these factors with the job description is the starting point for developing strategies for improving productivity by controlling the working environment.
 
To suggest areas that requires standard operating procedures and methods manuals:
 
By analyzing job descriptions, one can determine tasks that are complicated, time-consuming, repetitive, or, perhaps, common to a number of employees. When such tasks are also tasks that must be performed with minimal error and must yield uniform output, it is useful to develop precise, detailed procedures and methods to assure standardized execution of the best possible means of accomplishment. Once developed, such procedures or methods should be published in a manual for all workers to follow. The job description points the way to where investment in procedures or methods design, and publication of that design, is worthwhile.
 
To guide reorganization during organization retrenchment, expansion or improvement efforts:
 
The job descriptions for positions that are to be eliminated in retrenchment will reveal vital task or responsibility areas that must be combined with other tasks elsewhere in the organization or reassigned to others. The job descriptions for positions not scheduled for retrenchment will reveal opportunities for absorption of tasks from retrenched positions. Studying the set of all job descriptions associated, in one way or another, with retrenchment helps management make rational reallocations and repartitioning of tasks. Similarly, during organizational expansion it may make sense to alter present jobs as well as to create new jobs. Review of all job descriptions related to the change will help management decide the best kinds of adjustments to make.
 
During attempts to reengineer work systems, job descriptions will suggest what to look at for possible task eliminations, additions, combinations, sequencings, and so forth. Jobs shown to be similar in certain respects by their job descriptions may all be reengineered as a unit--making the same changes across all jobs in the unit. This can help make the job change effort more efficient.
 
To help determine the proper physical location for jobs:
 
A quality job description should reveal how the job relates to other jobs--where job inputs come from and where job outputs go. It should reveal something about the nature and frequency of incumbent interaction with other employees. If a job requires a high level of face-to-face contact with a person on another job, then consideration should be given to locating the two jobs in close physical proximity.
Office location, work station location, and general work layout decisions, related to work station spacing and sequencing, can be significantly aided by analyzing job interfaces as explained in the job description. By studying, with job descriptions, the nature of employee interaction, management can learn about where to position jobs physically to facilitate both material and information flows.
 
To determine the number of observations required for work sampling studies:
 
In some companies periodic task time studies are done. To provide statistical validity, an adequate number of task observations must be made. To determine the adequate number, a set of trial observations must first be made. Rather than spend time on a trial set of observations to establish approximate percentages of the time the worker spends on various job elements (tasks), percentages can be pulled from a time-distributed job description. Deriving an adequate number of trial observations for a job with a large number of tasks could demand a considerable investment of time on the part of the analyst. A properly developed job description, however, provides the needed data at a quick glance.
 
To avoid duplication of effort, territorial infringement, and task neglect if work is left to evolve apart from rigorous written plans, job overlap often becomes a problem.
 
Different workers come to perform the same kinds of tasks or to exercise authority in the same areas. This duplication and infringement is wasteful and creates job conflict. Job descriptions can clearly delineate and separate the responsibilities and authority domains of different workers to maximize efficiency.
 
Also by developing job descriptions, management helps assure all necessary tasks are incorporated in the design of work and appropriately assigned.
 
See the following articles for more information: