Writing job descriptions: three questions to help ensure success

Coming up with a list of all the necessary requirements for an employee to perform a job might not sound too difficult. Take, for example, an employee who works in manufacturing. Heavy lifting is likely an important part of the job, and belongs in the job description. But, how much do they have to lift to carry out day-to-day tasks? Fifty pounds? One hundred? What about distance? Do they have to carry objects across the manufacturing floor or lift them into a truck bed?

Because answering these types of questions isn’t always a simple task, writing job descriptions is a process that is sometimes forgotten or ignored altogether. This can create problems for an employer down the line because a clear, concise list of essential job functions is used when providing an employee with accommodations to help him or her perform their job. When considering how to approach the list of job descriptions and their essential job functions within your organization, consider these tips:

Who is responsible?
Writing a job description should be done before a job has been posted. This is often the responsibility of a department or senior manager, but also can include the risk management department, as they are often involved in workers’ compensation claims and occupational assistance. Regardless of who writes the job description, the list of essential functions must be agreed upon by all teams and department management.

What should be considered?
Effective statements often include a detailed description of the task using active verbs that describe the intended result or outcome. A good outline of essential job functions should consider:

  • The duties associated with a certain position
  • Specific qualifications an employee may need to have (lifting weight, advanced degrees, etc.)
  • The time required to perform the function(s)
  • The consequences of not being able to perform the function
  • Whether other employees can perform the function

Who can answer questions?
Experts from your disability insurance carrier, such as Workplace Possibilities consultants, can assist in writing effective job descriptions. While they may not be able to develop all of your job descriptions, a Workplace Possibilities consultant can often assist in the development of specific ones.

Not only that, there may be tools or training that your carrier can assist with to help your organization understand the important things to include in job descriptions and what might not hold up if scrutinized by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Writing proper job descriptions can be exhaustive and tricky, but it doesn’t have to be a solitary process. To learn more about your options when writing job descriptions, consult with your Workplace Possibilities consultant.

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