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5 Places to Begin When Preparing A Job Description

Do not reinvent the wheel every time you are faced with the task of preparing a job description. Often old job descriptions will exist. They may be grossly out of date and out of touch with reality, but they can still provide valuable data or suggestions on where to focus a job analysis study.

Where should you start when beginning the process of writing a job description? Read on to find out more.

Job descriptions used in other parts of the organization for similar jobs can prove valuable for helping one structure and write a job description. They can also offer suggestions on what kinds of responsibilities or duties to investigate and ask questions about. Also getting copies of job descriptions used in other organizations for similar types of work can save a great deal of time by suggesting desirable formats, writing style, task statement content, and so forth. Professional groups, associations, and agencies often have job descriptions on file for jobs that are fairly standard in an industry. A medical lab technician in one hospital, for example, is likely to have essentially the same job as a medical lab tech in another hospital. Acquiring job descriptions from other organizations engaged in the same kind of production or service as yours can significantly help in reducing the burden of job description preparation in your company.
Panels of Experts

There can be great advantages in using groups to provide job data. The comments of one member will provide information for others and in time, a fuller picture of the job will emerge. Also, a more accurate picture will emerge as inaccurate or inappropriate data will likely be filtered out when a number of people are discussing a job's content.
It is crucial to get experts on your panel--perhaps employees who now supervise, but at one time worked in the same job. Other employees who would be suitable for a panel include personnel specialists, competent experienced workers who at one time held the job under consideration, or who have related to the job frequently over the years, or perhaps workers on job rotation who have experienced the job as well as other related jobs and, therefore, understand how the job fits into the overall system. Outsiders who have backgrounds related to the job or who work at similar jobs in other companies can also be invited to the panel. Assembling panels of experts can be costly, but one main advantage is objectivity. You have to be careful to assemble people with true knowledge of the job, however. This may be difficult because if they do not perform the job themselves, or do not directly supervise, the question can be raised: "Just how much do they really know about the job?"
Budgets and Expense Records
Budgets, together with records of actual expenditures, can provide insight into the nature of work because they show how money is being used and for what kinds of resources. Each item purchased by a company should be used in some way to accomplish some kind of work. Reviewing budgets and expenditure records may stimulate the analyst to develop certain lines of questioning about duties ignored or forgotten, with other job analysis approaches. For ex ample, the analyst may discover an unusual piece of equipment rented during a particular time of year. This leads to questions about what it was used for, who used it, how much time was spent with it, what specific tasks workers had relative to this equipment, and so on. Knowledge of this unusual event can perhaps stimulate considerable insight into what turns out to be time-consuming but unplanned work--something that should be acknowledged in a job description and budgeted for accordingly.
Work Plans
Various types of work plans, such as organizational and departmental objectives, production schedules, work orders, methods annuals, and written procedures can cue the analyst on which areas to probe. The analyst can find out just what parts of these plans with which the incumbent is involved.
Often, comprehensive sets of work objectives are prepared for individual jobs or positions. These certainly can provide rich data on what experience an incumbent will have in filling this position. The conversion from objectives to statements of duties, or tasks, is not usually a difficult one.
Performance evaluation instruments and objectives, though usually prepared after job descriptions are finalized, are frequently assembled apart from the existence of any job descriptions. When this is done, these documents can provide a wealth of insight job description preparation process. They usually spell out key areas in which the incumbent is supposed to perform well. Keep in mind, however, that this involves working backward. It is more appropriate to design and describe the job first, then to decide the criteria and objectives to be used to evaluate worker performance.
Activity Matrix
The activity matrix approach is a special way of getting employees to think about their jobs in terms of (a) various major functions they perform, (b) products or services they produce, (c) physical location at which they work, and/or (d) types of customers to whom they relate. Incumbents are requested to record time spent relative to each category and to list people, data, and things they come into contact with in each of the subcategories identified under each category. Duty statements with time percentages are then formulated and incorporated into the job description.
Management Committees and Groups of Workers
Committees and groups may not be experts as discussed above, but groups do generate a variety of ideas and perspectives and tend to generate valid data as mentioned earlier. Biases will naturally be screened out. Having a management committee develop data for job descriptions across the organization helps assure standardization in data acquisition procedures and in the format and content of prepared job descriptions. Management committees can also help distribute the burden of gathering and assembling data. They can serve to place the burden of designing jobs and preparing job descriptions where it probably should be--on a management team.
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