Here's Why Writing Job Descriptions is a Waste of Time

If you are an HR professional still writing or requiring hiring managers to write job descriptions, you’re not only wasting your time, but you are wasting theirs as well. Why?

1.) Jobs change too quickly. I talk with job seekers every day. Why are they looking? Usually because their job changed. They were hired for one thing and ended up doing another. Whether it is due to a misrepresentation of the job, a promotion, a restructure, or the business changing directions, it doesn’t really matter. They are in a job that doesn’t align with their career goals (or are no longer with the company) and they are looking for something that does.

2.) People with the same title, and thus the same job description, can be doing very different jobs. This is true in both small and large companies. These jobs could be equal in that the day-to-day may be the same, but the project work is divided up. Or they could be very different in both daily tasks and level of additional responsibilities. Nevertheless, the one who is doing the job that has a higher value to the company but has the same title and job description as the other person (even though they may be getting paid more) will be unhappy. They of course want to be recognized for their level of talent. But guess what? The person with the same job description (possibly getting paid less) will also think this is unfair, even though the job they are doing requires less skill. If they are paid the same? Well, you will still have a problem on your hands!

3.) Job descriptions limit innovation. If people are stuck to doing what is in their job description, and venturing outside of that will be stepping into a co-worker's territory, people will tend to adhere to the bullet points. Those who suggest otherwise will be labeled as not collaborative for going outside the boundaries, and the status quo will be preserved. Job descriptions are like a multiple choice test: you may be able to check the right box, but the company is being limited to the prescribed answers instead of the white space possibilities.

4.) Job descriptions stunt career growth. Job descriptions are tied to titles, and job titles are written to have an incremental step progression. That’s just not how it works anymore! First, our jobs are more project-based. Someone may lead one project and be an individual contributor on the next. The idea of two career paths, SME or people manager is no longer relevant. Second, it would be like not allowing a child with a reading level higher than their grade to read anything except what is average for their age. Of course we would challenge the child, encourage him or her to work at her level, right? Regardless of their grade (or job description)? Why would this be different with adults?

5.) Employees will always be behind market rate. By the time you update the job description, you will be reporting on what has already happened. You’ll get salary data that is already old, and give your employee an increase that is past due. Do you think that will retain your top talent?

So what do you do instead? I’ll be posting next week.

n. Nothing in her articles constitutes legal advice.

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