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Encouraging Management to Specify Temporary Assignments

Operative employees and perhaps some section leaders, or foremen-types, with relatively little supervisory work will usually be classified as non-exempt. The important point of job description is that the organization be consistent in its classifying of particular jobs.

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For providing an historical perspective. A file of job descriptions kept over time provides a valuable record of how work and administrative systems in an organization have evolved. By reviewing past arrangements of jobs and internal job structures, the organization can spot what kinds of work and administrative systems have been tried before. Such review helps avoid reinventing the wheel and making costly mistakes that have already been made. Reviewing old job descriptions can generate fruitful discussions on what kinds of work should be pursued. By reviewing the organization's history, points of continuing weakness as well as strength can be singled out and better understood. Chronic areas of weakness can then be more constructively addressed for correction. Strengths can thus be more intensely pursued.
For defining group work. Job descriptions are not only worthwhile for individuals. As such, group work should also be consciously designed and defined. Usually within a group, committee, or task force, individual assignments are not spelled out—but, the overall group should have clearly defined functions and authority. Group job descriptions can give groups a true sense of why they exist--a clear picture of what the group is supposed to accomplish. As with job descriptions for individuals, job descriptions for groups can help in planning rewards for groups, in picking the right people for participation in the groups, in training group members, and in controlling overall group performance.
For encouraging management to specify temporary assignments in advance. A serious problem in many organizations is the assignment of temporary work to certain employees. Often such work is not compatible with normal assignments, overburdens workers, or agitates and frustrates workers because they are not given ample opportunity to plan ahead and properly integrate the new assignment into their work routines. Much temporary work can be planned ahead, however, and communicated to the worker well in advance. A good practice is to write into job descriptions, when they are annually reviewed, a temporary assignment section that spells out new responsibilities that are of a year or less in duration. This practice helps assure that the job description is an accurate reflection of the total work design (routine and temporary work) and it gets management to think through needed temporary activities before they actually must be confronted.
For aiding analysis of the organization by outside agencies. Accrediting agencies and regulatory agencies of various types need to inspect organizational operations from time to time. Job descriptions guide these agencies to the appropriate people in an organization to talk about matters relevant to their concerns. Some agencies, for example, may insist that certain kinds of activities be performed, that certain employees have a particular set of tasks to perform, or that workloads not exceed a specific level. This is typically more common in the fields of medicine and education. By studying job descriptions, the outside agency receives insight as to what to investigate as well as with whom to talk.
For providing stability and continuity. Job descriptions are vital in helping organizations cope with rapid job change and organizational realignments. They provide stability and continuity in the organization. Most of all, they facilitate change by helping assure key work elements are not overlooked in the change process and that the process is controlled. Without job descriptions, change may occur for change's sake. Rapid change can mean certain old, but nonetheless important, tasks get lost or neglected as new assignments are engineered into jobs. Chaos and inefficiency become the norms. The preparation and revision of job descriptions along the way--leading rather than trailing the change effort--assure a measure of forethought and systematization in change not likely achieved by other means. This helps prevent work systems from evolving into higher states of entropy.
For helping raise employee morale. Sometimes employee morale suffers when they think they are not getting paid as much as someone else who does essentially the same type of work, or when they think they are doing more than others but for the same amount of pay. On many occasions, such attitudes and feelings are the result of erroneous perceptions that emerge because of excessive secrecy in pay and work assignments. The job description helps mitigate this effect. When the organization gets out the job descriptions for review for those employees who are upset, the bases for being disgruntled more often than not disappear. Workers find the inequities they thought existed do not in fact exist. Job descriptions help with transparency and show employees what other colleagues’ work and allow for objective comparison with what they themselves do.
For understanding the roots of productivity decline. Change alone in an organization is not inherently good or bad; but by reviewing how job descriptions in an organization have changed over time and by looking at how fast they have changed, one can gain insight into why the organization may be experiencing productivity problems. For example, if you discover that jobs are constantly and radically being altered in content, a legitimate question arises as to whether or not these workers ever develop very high proficiency. Similarly, if you find that workers continually have to develop new working relations with others, a question arises as to whether or not quality teamwork ever emerges. If the pace of change is imbalanced, there may be a greater strain on human resources as it could find itself in an unnecessarily inefficient start-up mode.
For defending against claims or employment discrimination or abuse. Any organization can be called to court in an employment abuse or discrimination case. To defend itself, the company may have to present job descriptions to demonstrate what the original job demands and requirements are like and what was agreed upon in an employment contract. People bringing charges of faulty employment practices usually do so because they have been rejected or denied what they may perceive as injustices toward them—for example, in the form of opportunities that were afforded to others. The job description can help show why such denials or rejections may have been made. They can help show, for example, why there are pay differences, why certain people were promoted and others not, why certain people were not hired, why certain workers were not accepted for a training program, why one position was retrenched and not some other.
For guiding determination of exempt and non-exempt status. Exempt employees are those to whom the company does not pay overtime wages or salaries. Non-exempt employees must be provided overtime pay in conformance with wage or salary legislation. By reviewing the job description, the analyst can decide in which category the job properly belongs. Usually supervisory-type work and the work of high-level staff people and professional employees will be classified as exempt. Management will expect them to do the work whenever it needs doing for a fixed wage or salary. Sometimes grievances arise from employees about their jobs being improperly classified. In such cases review of the job description usually helps explain why the job was so classified or review may indicate to both management and employee that a change in status is, indeed, needed.
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