Why Job Descriptions Are Really Important

If you don’t have a current job description – that you’ve looked at and reviewed in the last 90 days with your manager – then the truth is that you don’t know what your job is and your manager doesn’t know what to manage.

That might sound like a nervy statement. But it’s so important, it has to be said.

What makes it so important?

It’s important because even though most people who get jobs are recruited to a job description – which is outlined to them in the interviewing process – and which helps them decide if they want the job and can do it – it’s often the last time the job description is ever discussed.

After the job is filled and you start work, the job description is often filed and rarely referred to or referenced. It is hardly ever updated and hardly ever looked at during a performance appraisal.

And, on top of that, while you are doing the job you were hired for, it usually changes, sometimes quite often.

Why does this matter? Why does a job description need to be updated or reviewed?

The most important reason is because it’s “fair” – on both the employee and the manager.

Because without that updated reference point, the manager doesn’t really know how to accurately support the person doing the job.

And, because without that updated reference point, it’s very easy for the person doing the job to start deciding to change how they do the job as well as how they grow in the job – without referencing any of these changes with the manager.

And, this can be a recipe for trouble. Because these changes and decisions by the employee mean that…

  1. The way they do the job might no longer match the way the manager wants the job to be done
  2. The manager is no longer effectively supporting and managing the growth of the employee in any focused or specific way.
  3. The employee doesn’t fully understand the scope of authority and responsibility of their job and could inadvertently step into someone else’s job (function).

This is even more of a problem when all the job descriptions in a company aren’t current and available for everyone within the company to look at – which means they don’t really understand what others in the company “specifically” do.

This raises an interesting question.

If job descriptions are so important – and can prevent a lot of problems – why aren’t they treated as important in most companies?

Here’s why…

Most people cringe when the word “job description” is mentioned because their experience with job descriptions has not always been positive.

And, there are some myths about job descriptions that people believe, including…

  • They are not important. We don’t need them. We haven’t had them up to now so what difference will it make if we have them?
  • They will restrict what management can ask people to do.
  • They stifle innovation and creativity and force people to stay within a box.

Even though these reasons are all untrue, they are often used as excuses to avoid writing proper job descriptions, for keeping them current, and having managers and employees use them as living documents to guide and focus their energies for continued success in the company.

If your job description isn’t current and up-to-date, you may want to ask your manager if you could perhaps discuss your job description so that you are more clearly focused on what your job actually is (now) and how the company (and your manager) are measuring your success, contribution, and value to the company on an ongoing basis.

It’s very likely that both you and the company will benefit enormously from this exercise.