Our ever changing job descriptions

What’s the purpose of a job description?

When a job is posted by a company there is a job description posted with the job. The description gives prospective employees a chance to see if their skills and experience match the qualifications the employer is expecting. In the hiring process, the job description is a functional document. It serves a purpose within the hiring event to bring an individual and an organization into a relationship.

But our job description changes over time.

As an employee acquires institutional knowledge of the company processes, systems, and clients the boundaries of the original job description start to blur. Typically an employee takes on new responsibilities as they complete project work, onboard new clients, or launch new technology solutions.

Employees also may receive new assignments through leadership changes or even receive assignments to work on projects and systems that didn’t exist when they were hired. For some employees the changes in responsibilities are subtle while for others more dramatic.

Some employees move into job responsibilities that didn’t exist anywhere when they were hired. When I left my previous employer I had responsibilities for internet analytics, digital marketing, internet advertising, and search engine optimization. None of these functions existed in the organization when I was hired.

How do we update our job description to match our current job function?

I thought about this question this week. My first thought was to periodically update the job description document that was used at the time of the original hire. But is this necessary and does it provide value? Depending on the amount of changes, updating the official document could change the classification of the job in the HR system. That triggers compensation reviews and job classifications. If the current job duties of the employee are dramatically different than their original job duties then I think this type of approach is warranted to be fair to the employee and to provide some documentation should the position need to be backfilled.

Another way to approach this is to look at the one-on-one meetings and the annual review between the manager and the employee. This is the time when a manager sets the expectations for the employee’s job duties and results. That provides the same function as the job description document. While the one-on-one meetings may be more informal and verbal in nature, the annual review tends to be more formal and is a good place to find out about the job description for an employee. We don’t think about the annual review document as a job description document. But the performance of the employee is evaluated against a set of standards and behaviors that comprise their job description.