Job Descriptions

When talking with our business clients in Northeast Wisconsin, we generally hear that creating and updating job descriptions for employees is a huge waste of time. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Well-written job descriptions can help you run your business, save time down the road and avoid costly employment litigation. The trick is creating job descriptions that are useful.

What does a useful job description have?

Job descriptions will vary. However, whether your business is located in Appleton, Oshkosh, Green Bay or Neenah, there are some common things all job descriptions should have.

  • Details.  It’s tempting to leave a job description vague (e.g. Sales Representative for Outagamie and Brown County). But a vague job description won’t give your employee any guidance on what you expect of them. It also won’t help you figure out if your employees are meeting those expectations (e.g. I AM a sales representative in Outagamie and Brown County even though I haven’t sold anything!). Always err on the side of adding details.
  • Job duties and qualifications.  A job description should always include the job title, basic responsibilities and the title of the position’s immediate supervisor. The job should report to a particular position (for example, an Appleton customer representative reports to the Appleton customer service manager), rather than an individual person. It’s also a good idea to add specific qualifications/requirements the position requires (e.g.  familiarity with NEW North family businesses).  Specific requirements are often the key to defending employment litigation.
  • Monitoring policies.  The job description should also lay out how and when you’re going to evaluate whether expectations are met. The job description should provide a benchmark for evaluating an employee. An annual performance review is a good start. Most expectations, though, should be addressed more often so that you can prevent minor issues from becoming problems or, worse yet, a lawsuit.

Why do job descriptions matter?

Job descriptions are certainly important for avoiding employment litigation. For example if an employee has a disability, you can look to the job description to see what kinds of reasonable accommodations you legally need to make. Additionally, If an employee sues for discrimination, the job description can often come to your defense.

But job descriptions are equally important for “business” reasons.  Job descriptions tell your employees what’s expected of them, how they will be measured and who will measure them. This inevitably eliminates costly employment litigation, but also enhances employee productivity by ensuring everyone knows what they need to do.

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