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[Author: Lesley Sifers, Tax Favored Benefits, Inc., 2012; R-2013 | Keywords: Human Resources, Job Description]

In the last issue, I wrote about the many ways job descriptions can help you manage your business and the advantages of creating them. You must be very excited about beginning this project! Where do you begin? 

Step #1: Identify the various positions in your company. This can be as simple as compiling a list of all job titles. If you are a multi-location dealership, keep in mind that employees with the same title can have very different responsibilities depending upon their location. I think the rule of thumb might be: The smaller the store, the bigger the hat rack. If you write your job descriptions based upon the primary location, they may not fit with the same job title at one of your other locations.

Step #2: Analyze each position. WHY does this job exist? This is the first step in determining “essential functions.” Keep in mind that the term “essential functions” has particular significance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). At this point, it’s helpful to have an intake form that prompts you to think about what the main duties are as well as other tasks or responsibilities and the physical demands of the position. During this process, you should interview the supervisor or manager of the position as well as the current jobholder. Find out what THEY think is important about performing the job properly. Ask those “What if” questions. For example: What if the Accounting Clerk fails to submit payroll information by 5:00 PM on Thursday? This part of the process will prove helpful (even if you NEVER create job descriptions) because you will learn a lot about how people in your organization view their jobs. Sometimes, you could be shocked!

Step #3: Now you should have a lot of data to sort through and organize to create your first draft of a job description. Again, I recommend a form that will help you with boiling things down. This form includes job title, department or location (if applicable) and the title of the position to which the position reports. You may also wish to identify the position as exempt or non-exempt but, keep in mind, the classification could change once you have reviewed the responsibilities of the position.

Next, sort out the information by “responsibilities,” “tasks,” “knowledge, skills and abilities,” and the all-important “physical demands.” Identifying the essential functions of the position (WHY does this job exist) remains the key to eventually creating an accurate job description. Those essential functions are normally responsibilities and tasks. Essential functions are not always those that the jobholder spends the most time performing. An Accounting Clerk may spend the majority of the week processing accounts payable/receivable and only one hour a week on payroll. But, isn’t it just as essential to process the payroll?

Responsibilities and tasks are two different things. Responsibilities are often associated with supervisory and management positions – assigning and checking the work of others, ensuring certain results, etc. Tasks are things that a jobholder must do – building or repairing things, entering data, preparing reports, filing, etc.

Knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) are different. Knowledge can be gained through education or experience. If you require a college degree for a position you should know that the EEOC considers two years of related job experience equal to an Associate’s Degree.

Eliminating a candidate who doesn’t have a specific degree can be problematic. Skills are things like typing/data entry, mechanical expertise, etc. Abilities can be personal qualities such as the ability to speak persuasively or deal with stressful situations effectively. The KSAs are useful in both hiring and performance evaluation. These should be relatively concrete attributes of a successful jobholder. Pay attention to the KSAs.

Step #4: If you have written job descriptions they must be ADA compliant, which means you must identify the physical demands of the position. We often think of activities requiring strength or   exertion as physical demands. However, for ADA compliance, you need to identify many types of activities: standing, sitting, stooping, climbing, repetitive use of hands/ fingers, walking, etc. You must also describe environmental factors such as exposure to heat or cold, fumes, noise, etc. This applies to both office and shop positions.

Once you have sorted out all the information, you will be ready to actually write a job description. I will discuss writing style and format and yes, there is ANOTHER form. Stay tuned.