The importance of Position Descriptions

Posted by Kirsty Peters on Monday, March 19, 2012

SO - do you have up-to-date, clear Position Descriptions (PD) for every role? Really? Honestly? If you don’t – how can you be sure that your people are working on the things your business needs them to be working on? With your people likely being your highest variable cost – can you really afford to be duplicating tasks, or leaving gaping holes? 

Do Position Descriptions really matter that much? 

· Role clarity:  Employees want to know the purpose of their role, their main accountabilities and the boundaries within which they operate.  People without role clarity are often less engaged and may be more likely to search for a new role. A lack of clear accountabilities can lead to duplication of work, tasks falling between the cracks because nobody knows who is accountable for what, or work being done at too high a level in the organisation, with strategic work not getting done at all. 

· Link to the whole HR process- such as recruitment and selection, performance management, and development planning. Without a clearly defined role the other processes break down and are less likely to be of value.

· Risk Management:  How could you expect to manage an underperforming employee without a clear and up-to-date position description?  In fact, it begs the question, is the employee performing poorly because there is no position description in the first place?

OK, I get it. How do I ‘do’ Position Descriptions properly? 

You need a system!  Not an IT system necessarily, but a process.  A good system looks something like this:

·  A single user-friendly PD template used across the company.

·  A set of model PDs for common roles across the organisation – this helps drive consistency and reduces the work in writing PDs, as a model PD then just needs to be tailored for each position, rather than a manager having to start with a blank template.

·  A central place for PDs where they are stored and are easily accessible for each employee.

·  Managers review each employee’s PD regularly – build in a review of the PD to coincide with the setting of performance objectives for the year. This timing is perfect as an up-to-date PD should be a key document referred to when developing performance objectives for the year.

· PDs are audited – conduct an annual audit to identify the coverage and quality of position descriptions across the organisation. 

· Education of managers – ensure that managers know that a position description provides a high level overview of a role – it should not be a lengthy document.  Don’t try and list every possible task that an employee might need to perform – it is not your procedure manual. (I can help you with one of those separately, if you’re interested)

 I know this isn’t the most exciting part of your business – but it may be one of the most valuable. With this simple, straightforward process, you can create far greater efficiency with your people, and get more done with less.


Tags: hr human resources  position description  hr advice