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The Importance of Updating Job Titles and Descriptions

December 1, 2018 . 9:00 am

job-descriptions

When was the last time you reviewed your company job titles and descriptions (and I mean all of them)? Maybe it’s not top of your list right now, but it’s good practice to have a process for making sure there is regular review of both job titles and job descriptions.

Lets begin with job titles. It goes without saying that they need to be clear and easy for those in the industry to understand, and in technical roles this is often of even more importance. General consensus is that being familiar and specific without being too general is the best route to take. However, perhaps you are a young company in the media or new technology sector and you want to attract individuals with new ideas and a bit of an edge? In this case you might want to adapt the strategy of firms such as Apple, who name their in-store technical support teams ‘Geniuses’ or Starbucks who have used ‘Coffee Master’ as a title for some of their customer service members. These kind of titles are fun and give the employee a sense of pride in what they do while helping the customer to trust them. This isn’t going to work for everyone so before you start renaming your team as ‘Digital Dynamos’ and ‘Ninja Analysts’ think about your company culture and the personality of the personnel you’re aiming to hire.

Job titles are key for a number of reasons. As well as outlining responsibilities, they can be used for setting goals and measuring performance. Long standing roles may have been filled by one person for many years with them assuming new responsibilities or leaving out tasks that didn’t work as well. Or you may have seen a number of people in and out of the same role, each taking a slightly different slant on the position. Both instances would leave the original job description outdated and not fit for purpose.

If any problems were to occur, from either your point of view, or that of the employee the job description may well be referred to. Strict adherence to an outdated job description by the employee would of course be counter productive and could help the employee in filling a complaint or grievance. An up to date and accurate job description however could work in your defense or favour. A great time to update job descriptions is during an employee’s annual review, but do it more often if you need to – this might be the case if you’re a growing or changing organisation. Regularly use it and refer to it, this way you’ll be more likely to keep it up to date.

Keep job descriptions as short as possible, you don’t want them to be an operational manual on how to do the job, but you do want to them to include all the vital skills and competencies. As well as skills and qualifications, competencies are just as important and highlight aspects such as teamwork, leadership and communication. Rather than simply stating that the individual must be a ‘good communicator’ be more specific and expand a little on the most important areas.

You’re shaping your organisation with your job titles and descriptions, which tasks are covered by which employees and what is expected of everyone. Make sure you have strong job descriptions and that you make time to ensure they’re accurate and up to date, and if you can, incorporate them into day-to-day business.