Magazine article Supervisory Management

The Job Description: More Than Bureaucratic Control

Magazine article Supervisory Management

The Job Description: More Than Bureaucratic Control

Article excerpt

The Job Description: More Than Bureaucratic Control

Human resources make up the most costly component in the white-collar workplace. For all the dollars you're spending on people, how do you ensure a payback? You start by using the job description correctly.

An effective job description is relevant and accurate. It can become the basis for periodic "audits" of your staffers, tying actual descriptions to what the staffer is supposed to do.

Common complaints

Job descriptions are needed by personnel departments - but the supervisor must realize that the description should represent how he or she wants the work structured. The supervisor must give the relevant information to personnel - the "what and how" of the job.

Many job descriptions are too long. In fact, they often read more like task lists or operating procedures. Whatever the format, a job description should be brief and cogent. It should have just enough information to evaluate the job (for personnel administrators) and adequate description of major duties and responsibilities (for supervisors and employees). Moreover, a job description should not take hours to complete. The supervisor should be knowledgeable enough to define employees' major duties in a relatively short time - with a minimum of "word-smithing."

A properly structured job description encompasses broad and general responsibilities, thus eliminating the danger of becoming quickly outdated. it should focus on the nature and kind of decisions and recommendations of the job rather than the procedural steps. A periodic review for minor revisions and a complete revision every few years should suffice.

Writing the job description

Begin with what you know. All too often we succumb to writer's block - we freeze and don't know where to begin. Make a list of the most important aspects of the job, keeping the list to no more than ten. These are your end-products or services.

Identify the "hows." For each aspect you've listed, describe the conditions the employee must meet to accomplish the "what." The descriptions will vary in complexity depending on the tasks. A basic administrative job will have clearly defined procedural methods; a more senior position might involve more analytical evaluation.

This is the beginning of job analysis. You start with general steps and become more specific. Then you have to fit the job description into what your personnel department requires. Certain functions or aspects might have to be listed or presented in a particular way, for example. …

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