One of the most common mistakes a small business owner can make when hiring a new employee is not having a proper job description in place for the position first. In most cases, failing to define what is expected upfront can lead to a difference in job expectations between the employee and the employer.
Here’s a typical scenario: You hire an employee who seems like a star because during the interview he answered your questions in all the right ways, and seemed very motivated to do whatever it would take to be successful in the role. Fast-forward a couple of months and suddenly he seems to snub certain tasks and isn’t performing to the level you thought he would when you first hired him.
Having a proper job description becomes critical in this situation because it would have outlined job responsibility expectations to the employee from the start of his employment. What's more, it would also provide the employer a means of holding the employee accountable.
A well-written job description provides potential candidates with a realistic picture of what will be expected of them in the job and then once hired, and also provides clarity and direction during the tenure of the employee’s job.
A solid job description should include the following key elements:
- Job title
- Reporting manager(s)
- Employees name
- Date of when the document was made or revised
- Job responsibilities/duties
- Required education and or experience
- Required skills
- Required abilities and behaviors
- Outline of working conditions
Job responsibilities and duties should be listed in bullet form and they should be very specific. Indicating education and experience requirements sets a minimum standard needed for the job.
Skills, abilities and behaviors should also be listed because these areas provide a basis for measuring intangible areas of employees’ performance, such as their positive attitude. Additionally, the job description should include working conditions, which lists any physical demands of the job such as lifting up to 50lbs or percentage of time spent traveling out of town.
A well-written job description will serve many functions for a business, including:
- Creating detailed job postings, which can assist in recruiting future employees
- Serving as a guideline to measure employee performance; a means for taking disciplinary action
- Providing the employer with a better understanding of what each job does on a daily basis
- Identifying where the job fits in the overall business structure
- Helping to identify training needs and gaps in staffing levels
The fundamental purpose of a job description is that it should provide a clear understanding of the job and what it entails to both the employer and employee. As a small business owner, you will know you have developed a well-written job description because you’ll have preemptively answered the questions that are commonly made when employees unclear about their job: “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that”, or “I didn’t know that was a part of my job.”