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Whose responsibility is job description writing?

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Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

We are planning to conduct a job evaluation program, but we can’t afford an external consultant to help us. Our CEO suggests that the project be done by our human resource department. The trouble is that we have more than 130 jobs in the organization and revising them all would take up a lot of HR’s time. My question is: Whose job is it to write and revise the job description — the HR manager or the line managers who are expected to know what’s best for their respective departments? — Blue Wave.

American humorist Robert Benchley (1889-1945) said it best that “anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing.” This suggests you can always assign writing one’s job description to whoever appears to be doing nothing.

After all, who would want to admit he’s not doing anything?

On the other hand, Bill Gates says “it’s better to choose a lazy person to do a hard job because he will find an easy way to do it.” I’m not sure if the Microsoft founder is joking but I have a better option: Why not ask job applicants to write their job descriptions as part of the screening process? If you do that you can learn many things from your applicants. At the same time, it could form part of the process of weeding out undesirable applicants.

Assigning the difficult task of writing job descriptions to various people can present a whole lot of issues. Some HR managers would consider it a burden that interferes with their daily work of hiring new workers, nurturing and training them, and to some extent, helping fire workers. On the other hand, line executives and similarly-situated people managers may reject the task while thinking it is the HR managers’ job as they are perceived to have the expertise and objectivity.

Workload, qualifications, and even the temperament of management writing or revising job descriptions can’t be ignored. In addition to this, there could be possible office dynamics that should be taken into consideration, like the possibility of one department manager or several managers fighting to build their respective empires.

Also, you don’t want the task of writing or rewriting job descriptions to be seen as a reward to those who appear to be very busy or punishment to those who are doing nothing. Therefore, you must exercise care in making these assignments. Explain the importance of updating the job description with the help of all stakeholders, and not by one single department.

To do this, it is advisable to assign the task to several people in three different stages in the following order so that the load is divided equally and make it acceptable to all concerned:

Stage One: The HR department is tasked to create the policy, form, and substance. This is imperative so that the writing or rewriting of job descriptions is done according to a certain uniform template for consistency and corporate-wide application. It is also incumbent upon the HR department to explore, study, and apply what is acceptable according to industry standards and apply the best practices.

Stage Two: The concerned line executive must write the job description. When I say “write” I mean to update or revise if they are in consonance with the dictates of company goals, in general and department goals, in particular, and of course if they’re in accord with the guidelines set by HR. This should be easy for the concerned department supervisors and managers to do given the fact that they are the internal experts and privy to the challenges of each worker.

Further, it is easy as I would like to believe that they would not be writing it from zero as there are existing documents and HR’s templates to follow. And as soon as it has passed the review of all line executives, then the draft must be passed on to the workers for their review.

Stage Three: The concerned worker must be given the chance to review it. This is best understood under the principle of co-ownership. How can you argue with the boss and their workers who have agreed that what is written in the job description is the best way of doing things?

That’s why it’s always feasible to require each individual worker to take a good look at his or her job description. More than that, there could be several workers doing the same job but with conflicting understanding on how they should be done.

Writing and rewriting job descriptions is easy if there is a division of labor between and among the above mentioned stakeholders. It is wrong to choose between the HR manager and the line executives alone. Besides, the task is not an annual revision. It might take three to five years before you can even think of revising the job description again.

That thought alone should help you accept the task is for everyone.

Unless you’re working for a Japanese corporation that makes job description less important, then you must be particularly conscious of everyone’s job description while having an open mind that multi-tasking could be an excellent way for people to perform many related jobs at the same time.

Finally, when writing or rewriting a job description, you should not forget to include that shotgun statement at the end of form that commits all workers to perform “all other work assignments that are analogous to the foregoing.”

ELBONOMICS: You can’t escape responsibility by not updating your job description.

 

Send feedback or any workplace questions to elbonomics@gmail.com or via https://reyelbo.consulting.

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