Job Descriptions

Have you adequately defined the responsibilities for your quality management system? Clause 5.5.1 of ISO 9001:2000 requires top management to ensure responsibilities and authorities are defined and communicated within the organization.

Responsibilities and authorities should be expressed to implement and maintain an efficient and effective quality management system. Employees should be given this information so they can help achieve the quality objectives and establish their involvement, motivation, and commitment.

The ISO 9001:2000 standard doesn’t require written job descriptions. The responsibilities and authorities can be communicated in a combination of the quality manual, plans, procedures, and instructions. However, most companies also use job descriptions.

Properly written job descriptions not only convey responsibilities, they also help with hiring, retention, and legal compliance.

According to the HR Daily Advisor, bad hires often stem from not clearly defining what is required for the job. The result may be a bad fit, low productivity, poor morale, and eventually, resignation or termination. A good job description helps you and the applicants understand just what the job requires and what it’s like to do it. That makes for hires who are more likely to become competent and happy employees.

Job descriptions help clarify roles and define relationships. They can provide a basis for analyzing and improving the organizational structure. They also form the basis for the compensation system, including job evaluations and salary levels.

The HR Daily Advisor says that many a lawsuit has turned on a bad job description. You don’t want to be in front of a jury explaining that you fired someone for doing a poor job at a key task that’s not in the job description. So, if you use job descriptions, review them to ensure they continue to accurately reflect the actual functions of the job.

And, don’t overlook the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, job titles do not determine exempt status. In order for an exemption to apply, the specific job duties and salary must meet all the requirements of the Department’s regulations. The job descriptions should back you up.

The HR Daily Advisor lists some of the common job description mistakes:

1. Writing a job description that describes the person performing the job, not the job itself. It’s easy to think about the person in the job, and write about how he or she has chosen to do the work. A good job description focuses purely on job expectations and outcomes, not how the job is handled by the person doing the job.

2. Using vague wording. It is tempting to quickly write job descriptions by inserting vague language like “takes care of employment.” Does that mean routine recordkeeping, labor negotiations, or executive recruiting? Does that involve responsibility for employment or just participation in the process? Spell it out.

3. Glossing over essential vs. nonessential functions. With the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it became important to separate the essential functions of a job. This allows persons with disabilities to still be hired if they can carry out those key tasks (sometimes with reasonable accommodation), even if they can’t do lesser tasks. Every job description must make this separation to be ADA-compliant.

4. Failing to update. Change happens. There aren’t many jobs that haven’t changed significantly in the past few years. If job descriptions haven’t kept up, confusion and legal challenges may be headed your way.

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