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Design Strategies for Your Next Job Description

Objective measurement of performance along all task dimensions is usually not possible or practical but the tasks that do lend themselves to performance measurement can be selected out and a contingent reward system can be built around these.

What should you be looking out for when designing your next job description?

If it is discovered that workloads often pile up due to sudden input surges, this alerts management to provide buffer zones for the worker. Because the job description sheds light on task demand fluctuation and uncertainty, it helps management avoid some potentially high-cost situations that can reach from non-deterministic conditions.
The fully developed job description tells what, where, in what environments, and under what conditions tasks are performed. It therefore yields insight into possible psychological and physical hazards. If, for example, an employee is responsible for dealing with other employees' gripes 70 percent of each workday, we might expect this employee's psychological health to deteriorate over the long run. Knowing this, action can be taken to provide carefully spaced work breaks or changes of pace to relieve the employee of stress buildup. Similarly, if an employee is found from analysis of the job description to be working in toxic fumes a high percentage of the time, the organization might want to provide additional safety equipment to filter the air or to alter the employee's time per exposure by having the employee frequently rotate to other tasks to get a break. Also from studying workloads and the amount of task repetition indicated by the job description, the employee's needs for physical rest time can be identified and proper work breaks planned to provide periodic rejuvenation.
For guiding the allocation of unanticipated work demands and temporary assignments, job descriptions essentially show the planned routine workload. When unusual, unexpected, or one-shot new assignments come along they should be allocated such that task integration and work load balance are maintained. Scrutinizing job descriptions allows the manager to pinpoint which positions are best suited for receiving new or additional tasks.
One main function of the job description is to highlight responsibilities and tasks. However, to execute these responsibilities and tasks, workers need informational and material resources or inputs. Properly written duty statements in the job description with attached priorities can suggest to management the kinds and volumes of inputs that must be readied for the worker, as well as input quality and timing requirements. Specifying job inputs may be conceptualized as part of job design and inputs may be written into the job description. But if this is not done, the tasks spelled out in the job description will aid in identifying needed inputs. In any event, spelling out tasks first helps define inputs later.
For guiding the designs of new jobs and the writing of job descriptions for those jobs:
By looking at the already well-prepared job description managers can identify critical types of elements that must be considered in the design of any new position. They need not reinvent the wheel each time the organization needs to prepare a new job. Neither do managers need to struggle with writing job descriptions for new positions if quality job descriptions already exist for other positions. Already prepared job descriptions need only be referred to, to discern appropriate structure, style, wording, and type of content.
For determining the appropriateness of task time distributions:
In analyzing a job's design, one must ask the questions: "Is the amount of time spent on each task commensurate with its relative importance?" or "Are workers spending too much time on low-priority tasks and not enough on high-priority tasks?" The job description gives the analyst a quick picture of how responsibility priorities and times line up and thus gives insight into certain changes that may be in order.
For facilitating decentralization:
A great utility for job descriptions is that they clearly define roles. They reduce role ambiguity and, therefore, the amount of daily management attention required to define, communicate, and control organizational activity. Because of this, job descriptions allow managers to service relatively large spans of control. With large spans of control, fewer managers and levels are necessary in an organizational system. Moreover, flatter systems with fewer managers mean that a higher degree of organizational decentralization will likely emerge.
The rewards you will want your employees to experience will necessarily depend greatly on the nature of the work they do. Since the job description portrays the job design--the nature of the work--it is highly useful as a base document for guiding preparation of a system of appropriate rewards. There are a great variety of specific uses for the job description in the area of reward system design and employee motivation:
For determining proper pay levels:
The base salaries and wages you pay employees should, at least in part, depend on the demands the jobs place on those employees. Complicated jobs requiring much training and experience should pay more than simplistic, routine jobs. Hazardous, high-health-risk jobs should pay more than safe jobs. Jobs high in formal authority should pay more than jobs containing less authority. And so it goes. By comparing JDs and classifying jobs according to the demands they place on workers, pay differentials among jobs can be more equitably established. Formal job evaluation techniques can be used to reflect the worth of the work. Knowing the worth of the job to the company allows you to set wages and salaries that are fair and to respond properly to employee requests for pay adjustments.
For tailoring benefits:
Studying the job description for a job will allow management to gain insight into the kinds of benefits that should go to the person doing the job. For example, a job that places high levels of stress on the worker, perhaps because of its inherent ambiguity or because of extreme fluctuations in the demands placed on the worker, should probably be accompanied by a benefits package heavy on time off-vacation time. Or, if a job requires the worker to be immobile for extended periods of time, gymnasium facilities might well be provided to allow for physical fitness maintenance. The job description helps determine what kinds of benefits might be most appropriate.
For determining job dimensions amenable to the development of contingent rewards, part of every reward package should be a performance contingent component. By reviewing the job description, the analyst can spot those task dimensions for which clearly measurable performance criteria can be developed.
See the following articles for more information: