Let’s Consider Exterminating Job Descriptions Once and For All

Business fads come and go. All business fads, implemented or not, have an impact on staff.   A recent example is the current chatter surrounding an end to performance appraisals. As the old adage teaches us; “talk is cheap”. Only 4% of organizations have followed the advice of trade publications and actually eliminated traditional performance appraisals. Clearly troublesome business processes continue to vex us.

One persistent business “tool” we should seek to exterminate is the job description, a relic from a by-gone era that we simply cannot seem to shake. Ask yourself a few simple questions- When was the last time you reviewed your job description and what was the content? More importantly when was the last time your job description was essential to your achievement of any organizational priority?

Now, I know all of my employment law colleagues, all of my compensation colleagues, and all of my talent acquisition colleagues are cringing. After all, how will we defend ourselves against a claim, how will we set pay, and how will we recruit? The reality is that the traditional job description and the resulting administrative exercises it creates does not actually contribute to any of these important activities.

Consider the following-

  1. Prior the advent of the advent of the internet (yes I remember those days!), no one posted a job description or used it to recruit. We all wrote compelling advertisements and used referral networks. We actually sourced the roles we sought.
  2. Job descriptions are not needed to attract applicants, or generate interest in a role. In fact they may be counter productive.
  3. Job descriptions do not describe “the work”. They describe the attributes (knowledge, skills, ability, education) we believe are necessary to do the work. A candidate may possess all the education and attributes we require, and not be able to help our organizations achieve key business objectives. They are a poor predictor of success.
  4. Job descriptions contribute to laziness and lack of communication between HR and the hiring managers. The hiring manager completes all the boxes on the job description form, the recruiter posts the job, and everyone hopes for the best.
  5. Job descriptions are an administrative nuisance that adds little if any value. They must be created, stored, maintained, and updated.

A much better solution is the force a dialogue between HR professionals and the hiring managers. Asking such key questions as – What is the person in this role required to accomplish? What would a strong performer in this role need to do, to be great? Other tools can be used by HR compensation professionals to set organizational titles and pay.

Let’s continue the discussion and strive to rid our selves and our organizations from this administrative, non-value-added burden.

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