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Position Specific Versus General Responsibilities In The Job Description

Position specific responsibilities are those unique to the specific position being described by the job description. Distinguishing position specific from general responsibilities helps clearly differentiate a given job from other jobs, while at the same time clarifying expectations that are the same for many employees.

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The job description should distinguish position-specific responsibilities from general responsibilities. General responsibilities are the duties for which most other employees are held accountable. These general responsibilities are responsibilities common to a large cross-section of the work force.
 
Many kinds of general responsibilities are neglected by the typical job description, and yet are highly necessary for the employee to perform if the organization is to succeed in the long term. Following are some examples. A general control responsibility that should be indicated in every manager's job description is the responsibility to do a formal assessment and review of subordinate performance periodically. This is a critical management activity that takes considerable investment of time and effort if done right.
 
All managers should be evaluated on how well they conduct performance evaluations on their employees.
 
Responsibilities for various types of communications such as annual reports on performance to the boss, monthly information to update subordinates, or information on any problems arising should be indicated in job descriptions. Job descriptions often tell what transformation or form utility tasks one has to do but forget to convey the nature of the communication that should surround or accompany these tasks.
 
The employee's responsibility for semi-annual or annual self-evaluation of performance and for preparing for the follow-up performance review should be indicated in the job description. Every employee should be charged with the responsibility of providing evidence of performance. This is accountability. If we expect employees to be accountable, we should not hide this expectation. It ought to be spelled out in the job description. This is a highly important employee responsibility and how well the employee does this should be a consideration in the evaluation of the employee's performance.
 
Employees should also be charged with the responsibility of annually updating their job descriptions. Of course, employees' efforts here would not be the only source of information for updating but certainly it would be one important input. Again, how well employees do this is a dimension of their performance that should be evaluated and, therefore, evidenced in the job description. Other general responsibilities that may be indicated in the job description (instead of hidden elsewhere in a rule, policy, or procedures manual) are preparing the time card at the end of each workday, notifying the personnel office in case of on-the-job sickness, and keeping the work area neat and clean. These things take up worker's time; therefore, they should be in the job description and the employees should be evaluated on how well they perform these types of tasks.
 
WHY CATEGORIZE DUTIES?
 
In the preceding discussion of activity categories some good reasons for categorizing were hinted at. Now the discussion will be a bit more involved and cite some powerful, general reasons for this formatting or categorizing approach.
 
Identify More Fundamental Elements of Structure
 
Formatting a job description by basic categories of activities is like identifying the basic structural components-the frame-of a building or bridge. You cannot understand what holds the building together by looking only at the walls, ceiling, and floor. You have to look beneath to uncover the more basic elements of design. Identifying activity categories helps in analysis of the more fundamental components of the design of a job. Since categorizing lumps together similar tasks, it speeds up and simplifies the study of those tasks. It provides you with a higher level of analysis, which contributes to deeper insight into the structure of the job. Categorizing shows the major dimensions of the job and how smaller dimensions relate to one another. A random listing of tasks does not provide this key structural data. Because formatting leads you to better interpretation of the nature of a job, it facilitates improving the design of the job.
 
Allow for Better Comparison of Jobs and Performance
 
Establishing categories that can be used to describe any job gives you common dimensions along which to compare the nature of different jobs. You can better compare jobs with respect to work loads and volumes of different classes of task demands. When you can better determine the relative demands imposed by different jobs, you can set more equitable rewards for jobs. By having common dimensions along which to compare jobs you can better assure that jobs that are more difficult, jobs that are more dangerous, jobs that require the exercise of greater authority do, in fact, pay more than jobs that demand less of a worker.
 
Breaking jobs down into the same major classes of activities not only eases the task of job evaluation--determining the relative worth of jobs for pay and benefits determination purposes--it also helps in comparing the performance of different workers on different jobs because it gives you a set of structural dimensions common to all jobs. Performance differentials become more vivid and thus, make pay on the basis of performance more equitable.
 
Help Assure Key Task Areas Are Drawn Out in Job Analysis
 
Identifying major classes of activities in the job description and communicating these to employees during job analysis can help draw out from employees all types of activities in which they engage. Job analyses often rely on self-reporting of activities and responsibilities by employees. Frequently, employees have trouble remembering or recognizing all their tasks or all the ways in which they spend their time. Formatting, as described here, can stimulate recall and recognition, helping assure a complete job activity profile is provided by each employee on the job analysis questionnaire or during the job analysis interview. A properly formatted job description can help in subsequent job analysis efforts as much as job analysis helps prepare job descriptions.
 
Help Employees Better Understand Their Jobs
 
New employees are often bewildered by the scores of different tasks for which they find themselves responsible. They can often make little sense out of the apparent random array of tasks. Patterns of tasks and task relationships are often not readily discernible. Distributing tasks in the job description by major categories helps one quickly grasp the scope of the job and find meaningfulness in the nature of the job. In short, breaking a job into a few major activity categories helps one make sense out of the job quickly. This means the new recruit can be assimilated into the organization faster.

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