Job descriptions: An important tool for your small business

Corporations routinely use human resources tools that many small business owners ignore because they assume they are just for the “big guys.” One such tool is job descriptions. Often, the only time a small business owner thinks about writing a job description if when he/she is defining a job to make a new hire. And some people don’t even use them then. But, as this Entrepreneur article points out, job descriptions are useful for more than just hiring; they are valuable tools for performance management, training and employee development, and determining compensation, among other uses.

Why would you want to take time to write job descriptions when you only have a handful of employees? I have always liked the philosophy that you should start out the way you intend to end up. If your intention is to grow your business so you will one day have more than a handful of employees, you should strongly consider putting in place good human resources procedures, like job descriptions, from the get-go.

Even if your long-term plan does not involve growing your workforce, job descriptions can still help you make wise hiring choice because the exercise of writing a job description forces you to think through what you really need when you are hiring. Since every employee is so critical in a small business, hiring mistakes can cripple your business and correcting them takes valuable time and resources. A well-thought-out job description is one tool for helping you avoid such problems.

To get you started, here are some helpful articles on this important topic:

Competency Based Job Descriptions – I particularly recommend this article because it suggests a new approach to job descriptions that can be particularly helpful in making sure you hire the right person.

Writing Effective Job Descriptions – This is good, clear advice from the SBA.

Job Descriptions – I like the advice here about avoiding using words in the job description that are open to interpretation, such as “some” “frequently,” and “several.” Your idea of “frequently” might be completely different from an employee’s.   l

Writing Job Descriptions – I like this author’s advice about keeping a job description to one page.

While researching this topic, I came across several recommendations to keep job descriptions flexible. This seems to be particularly pertinent advice for a growing small business, where jobs can quickly morph as employees take on new duties. This becomes important when you’re using the job description as the basis for performance reviews. You don’t want to be judging someone on a job description that no longer fits what they’re actually doing. So make sure you update job descriptions as roles change.

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