Why Update Job Descriptions?

By Camille Franks, PHR, SHRM-CP

While not required by any law, job descriptions are a very important part of the employee life cycle. In addition to being indispensable parts of talent acquisition and talent management, they also provide a critical blueprint for many other HR and management processes. Job descriptions (JDs) are a summary of the duties and tasks assigned to a position in addition to the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required to do those tasks. As we consider the different HR tasks that come with winding down another year, reviewing and updating job descriptions is another helpful project to check off your list. (Or to at least get started on before the new year).

The following are some of the key reasons to keep your job descriptions up to date:

Recruitment

Use the job opening as an opportunity to factor in new skills that may now be needed in the role, including capabilities in updated technologies. It’s also a great time to recalibrate duties based on new departmental priorities and any organizational structure changes.

Having an updated JD throughout the recruitment process also increases the likelihood of getting the right person in the role, both through the self-assessment candidates do when job searching, and in the evaluation done by the hiring team - which avoids wasting valuable time and energy.

Onboarding

Once that new candidate is hired, having the freshly updated job description will help set the stage for what is expected, as well as providing an outline for the role and its tasks.

A best practice during onboarding is to ensure the new employee gets a copy of their job description on their first day, and to have them sign it. A copy of this is kept in their personnel file and works to keep everyone on the same page.

Compliance

Taking the time to update job descriptions is a good opportunity to re-evaluate the posting for OFCCP compliance, if your organization is a federal contractor.

Revisiting and revamping job descriptions can also ensure they are up to date for ADA and FMLA considerations, ensuring that the essential functions and requirements are accurate. Having current JD’s helps in going through the interactive process and identifying what kind of reasonable accommodations may be made. Additionally, it is best to have the JD done before an accommodation is made for good risk management. It will also help with any Workers' Compensation issues, as the JD clearly outlines the job requirements the injured worker must be able to perform.

Should an investigation be called into reviewing complaints when an employee feels they are being asked to perform duties well outside of scope of job, having a clear and current job description can provide critical discussion points.

Another reason to have job descriptions updated regularly is if your organization receives an EEOC Charge of Discrimination. Having an up-to-date JD provides clear information that can be used in resolving the Charge. 

Compensation

Accurate job descriptions provide the foundation of comprehensive, accurate, fair compensation. By being able to effectively assess tasks, responsibility, decision-making, and other key factors, employers can build equitable and accurate compensation structures.

There is peace of mind in employee relations (in addition to further compliance) by being able to accurately compensate employees for the job, and in being able to explain that to employees the “why” behind the wage.

Performance

Having a current job description is very important for gauging personal performance, for both the employee and their supervisor. Clear expectations and duties allow employees to more easily discern if they are in alignment with the goals of the organization, and whether they’re on track.

Up-to-date job descriptions can also be a factor in promotions and, occasionally, whether to terminate employment.

Comparing job description information with what is happening in the real world is also a good opportunity to evaluate how tasks are matching up with work being done – and decide if it’s time for an update.

Markets change, technology changes, and duties evolve, so how often should job descriptions be updated? Striving for an annual review is best, but every two years is a solid and often more realistic standard.

Understanding these primary reasons to keep your job descriptions up to date can help mitigate myriad risks and bolster a positive employee experience.

To visit about job description best practices, please contact our AmeriBen Human Resource Consulting Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-716-4482 or e-mail us at resourcecenter@ameriben.com.


About the Author

Camille Franks, PHR, SHRM-CP

Human Resource Consultant
AmeriBen
View Bio