Job description utility is almost boundless. As one begins to use job descriptions in various ways, one soon discovers other uses for them. Using them in these other ways then leads to even more ideas about how to use job descriptions.
The purpose of this article is to give the reader a broad sampling of how to use job descriptions to better understand how you can use them to build more appreciation for their power as a management tool. With the additional uses that come with job descriptions, few other managerial tools come close in variety of applications.
The job description is basically a communications tool. If it is well prepared, it will convey a great deal about the details and functions of a job. This information can be used in every phase of human resource management and beyond. It helps employees, their fellow employees, their bosses, those in upper management, and even people outside the organization.
JOB AND ORGANIZATION DESIGN
Job descriptions are to work as blueprints are to physical structures and electrical systems. Can you imagine building a skyscraper, wiring a rocket, or even assembling a bicycle without blueprints? It is similarly impossible to construct or design a job or organization effectively without job descriptions. There are a great variety of specific uses in this area of job and organization design.
For planning work:
The job description is a work planning tool. Its preparation helps assure that work evolves from a rational, conscious process. Deliberately planned work will do more for the organization and cost the organization less than unplanned work or work that emerges spontaneously. Planned work guides employees toward the interests of the organization rather than toward self-interest. By thinking through the design of a job in the preparation of a job description, work design problems can be anticipated prior to occurrence and more efficiently solved. The alternative to planned work is irrelevant work, chaotic endeavors, inefficient workflows, and avoidable mistakes. The job description is at the heart of managing work in that it is largely a main plan for how to effectively execute the work that needs to be done.
For projecting the implications of job change:
The job description serves as a model of work that needs to be assigned and completed. As a model it depicts key job components and the relationships inherent in those related components. It shows, on paper, the overall structure of work. This representation on paper aids in understanding the total job and, therefore, in manipulating the components of the job to obtain different desired results. The model can be tinkered with and its outcomes predicted prior to any actual job change. Studying a number of job descriptions associated with a contemplated work system change can give insight into the rational repartitioning and reassignment of work, and can lead to more orderly, disciplined transitions. By experimenting with change on paper first, results in potential problems can be identified and addressed before they actually materialize. Thus, the job description helps visualize and facilitate job change efforts rather than, constrain them. A model need never restrict design change. It should only aid in making the results of design change more predictable and the process of design change less costly.
To balance employee workloads:
By comparing the job descriptions of different employees, the manager can gain insight into how the volume of work, the variety of work, the intensity of effort required, and so on, differs from one employee to the next. Once these are understood, tasks can be better reallocated or redistributed to balance all workloads. Doing so can help to minimize excessive idle time and unfairness in the system. Tasks may be taken from the overburdened and given to the under-burdened; certain tasks may be shared; some additional new tasks may be assigned to the under-burdened. Employees who are overburdened may have some of their tasks simplified, combined with others, or outright eliminated. The job descriptions of different employees can help you discern the proper division of work and distribution of tasks and responsibilities across multiple employees.
For identifying where work complication and time studies can pay off:
A properly prepared job description will indicate the approximate percentage of time each task or responsibility takes. By picking out high time-consuming tasks for careful study as to ways to streamline, additional productive capacity can be developed and operational costs reduced. If a certain responsibility requires a relatively great amount of the worker's time, this is where the focus should be for any attempts to make operations more efficient. It would not make sense to invest heavily in reengineering tasks that already absorb a small or negligible amount of time. The opportunity for gain with such tasks is relatively minuscule.
For determining how to group jobs or departmentalize an organization:
Job descriptions may show that different jobs are significantly similar in some respect. Such jobs may be grouped together and the people performing these jobs can then be supervised as one unit (department/division) within the organization. For example, if a number of jobs show functional similarity, the occupants of those jobs may be efficiently supervised by one manager who has expertise in that function. Or, if jobs show marked similarity by physical location, it may make sense to have one supervisor for the incumbents in that location. Alternately, if the job descriptions for a number of positions show a relationship to a given type of product, it may be wise to group these jobs together administratively under one manager for that product.
Often, in practice, administrative units are defined first and jobs then carved out from within these units. However, it may be worthwhile to design the jobs first and then establish administrative units.
If prepared properly, the job description provides all these people with a coherent, concise, comprehensive, and accurate picture of an individual employee's work world. This can be especially helpful for those in management when making decisions relative to possible changes in that work world.
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