A great job description performs several important functions. It provides appropriate criteria for new hires, structure for current employees, and a basis for conducting performance reviews. And yet how many of us have worked in a position with a ridiculously outdated, inadequate or non-existent job description?

Yep. Pretty much all of us.

Why are job descriptions such a challenge?

One of the challenges of keeping up with job descriptions is growth, both at the corporate and individual level. When business is booming, we often put the focus on production over process. We expand our teams rapidly, while telling ourselves we don’t have time to document the details. We’ll get to all of that later.

Meanwhile, when we hire the right people, they tend to grow their positions over time. Once they have the basic job down, they start learning new skills and taking on more responsibilities.

This kind of professional growth can keep the team happy, but it can also leave individual job descriptions looking pretty sad. HR Managers may also be quite sad when the time comes to fill a position that no longer has an accurate description attached to it.

How to stay on top of job descriptions

If regularly updating job descriptions isn’t making it to the top of your weekly to-do list, try conducting an annual job analysis for each position in your organization. If this idea strikes terror in your heart, don’t worry. By no means do you have to analyze all of your positions every January or December.

A more manageable approach would be to use employee anniversary dates. With each passing year, ask your staff a few key questions about their job functions and how they may have changed.

Examples of Job Analysis Questions:

  • What are your major job responsibilities?
  • Which of these take up most of your time?
  • Has anything changed in the last year?
    • New tasks?
    • Tasks you are no longer responsible for?
  • Which of these responsibilities are most critical? Least critical?
  • What specific skills and tools do you need to be good at your job?
  • What education and/or personal qualities are necessary to be successful in this role?

Instituting this process will help you maintain an accurate record of each position in your organization, and establish the skills you need to look for when recruiting and hiring. The bonus here is that you can also tie this exercise in with any self-evaluation and/or performance management processes you have in place.

If your company is looking for ways to increase employee engagement, you may also want to consider integrating yearly job analysis check-ins as part of a Stay Interview program. Stay interviews are a great way to have career conversations and get valuable feedback from employees while they are on staff— instead of waiting until an exit interview is needed. 


Now is the perfect time to ask yourself, "Are our job descriptions out of date?" If the answer is yes, it's time to get to work. Help your job descriptions help you. If they're well-written, accurate, and up to date, they'll deliver.


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