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Can Job Descriptions Help Control the Quality of Your Staffing Efforts?

A job description should identify the high-priority and most time-consuming task dimensions. These are the areas for which employee training is most important and for which training generally has the largest payoff.

Are your job descriptions helping your organization meet its staffing needs?

For controlling the quality of the staffing effort, an organization can use job descriptions to accomplish the following:
 
  • Compare what employee actually do with what the organization intends for them to do
  • Monitor the frequency of job description change, in the organization, to accommodate employee deficiencies
  • Analyze the job descriptions of frequently unfilled positions.

Using job descriptions in these ways gives insight into how well the organization executes the staffing function. If employees typically engage in work not specified by the job description, it could mean that the people hired are not properly motivated to do specified tasks. If the job descriptions of employees are frequently changed to avoid deficiencies in the workforce, a question must be raised about the quality of the experiences and training of candidate pools. If positions go frequently unfilled, it may mean that additional new sources of candidates should perhaps be tapped.
 
For revising jobs to fit available talent.
 
Not always, even with the best of staffing efforts, can a candidate be found who can perform well all assignments as specified in the job description. A job may have to be altered to meet the limitations of the employee. Perhaps a certain task should be allocated to another position. Perhaps a task from that other position can be shifted to the job of the new employees. The set of job descriptions involved allows for study of the options for reassigning tasks. Jobs must never be cast in cement. They must recognize the actual character of the available human resource.
 
For helping candidates prepare for interviews, simulations, and assessment centers.
 
Not only does the job description help candidates assess, on their own, their strengths and weaknesses for a position, but it also is valuable for helping candidates learn about the jobs for which they are applying so that they can prepare questions for the interviewer and assemble in advance data that might support their candidacies. Every employer should give job descriptions to candidates well in advance of interviewing and any in-depth simulations or assessment center-type testing. This helps the candidate pursue a more active and involved role during screening. It helps the company avoid missing important cues about candidate potential.
 
For justifying the need for additional staff, replacement, or retention of staff.
 
When managers need additional help and request from their superiors’ authorization to acquire such without first providing proof of need, they are doomed to failure. A fully prepared job description for a new position will show exactly what the person is to be hired for. It helps the manager convince higher-ups that useful work will be engaged in by a new person. Of course the manager must actually develop a set of tasks that really cannot be adequately performed by others.
 
Once this is done though, that role must be put on paper and sold to the boss. The same applies for replacement of present employees or for defending the need to retain staff. Upper managers may question the need for certain positions. A well-developed job description can help justify that need.
 
For guiding the quizzing of references.
 
To standardize and make more valid the results of interviews with candidate references, job descriptions should be used. When asking references questions, the focus--as with other aspects of staffing--should be on how well applicants can do the job for which they are being considered. The job description suggests the right questions to ask. If every reference is quizzed with the same questions, a data base for objective comparison of candidates will be generated.
 
Often in conversation with references, informal chitchat and non-relevant data exchange dominate. By providing structure for the interview the job description helps avoid missing key issues and being excessively redundant in the questioning process.
 
For helping develop job rotation programs.
 
Job rotation programs make good sense as long as extensive reteaming is not required each time the employee moves to a different job in the cycle-as long as the employee can make good use of his or her best developed talents on each job in the rotation. The job descriptions for different jobs being proposed for a rotation plan can be studied to identify how compatible the different jobs are and how smoothly transitions across those jobs can be made. Some jobs in a prepared rotation plan may place a particular demand on the workers or require a special ability that the workers being considered for the rotation would not be able to quickly adjust to.
 
EMPLOYEE TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
 
An organization must assure that its human resource can efficiently and effectively perform the work to which it is assigned. New employees always need at least some training to properly absorb the nature of their work assignments.
 
Every employee needs training when job assignments are changed. All employees continually need to develop, over time, to assure they are of maximum value to the organization. The job description outlines the task areas in which training may be necessary. There are a great variety of specific uses for the job description in the area of employee training and development.
 
For inferring training needs.
 
The job description and associated set of person specifications make the kinds of training the worker needs self-evident. They clearly spell out those areas in which the worker needs training. Training programs can be set up to address the job demands and skill requirements as specified in these documents. During a training program, job descriptions aid the trainer in teaching the appropriate material to trainees.
 
For determining in what areas an investment in training makes the most sense.
 
Spending money to train employees for relatively unimportant tasks that take little time may be wasteful, especially if performance along these dimensions is already at an acceptable level. Management should be leery of supporting high-cost training for tasks rated low in importance or for tasks that do not soak up much of the investment in the human resource.
 
See the following articles for more information: