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The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed work and the way people search for it. The widespread shift to telecommuting showed the world that many jobs can be done from home — or anywhere else — and workers developed a taste for it.

Before the pandemic, only 17% of U.S. employees worked from home five days a week. By 2022, 59% of U.S. workers with the option to work from home were doing so all or most of the time. More than three-quarters — 76% — were working remotely due to personal preference. 

To hire, train, and lead in this changed environment, employers must conceptualize and describe their jobs differently. Job descriptions must reflect changing assumptions and clarify expectations, including work locations and schedules.

What Should a Job Description Do?

A job description puts all the details of a position on paper, or a computer screen. Unlike a job posting, which exists simply to sell the role and screen candidates, a job description is comprehensive. It includes every detail an employee, manager, or attorney might need to know about the position’s responsibilities and expectations.

A complete job description makes a job posting easier to write, but it does much more than that. Consider these four key benefits.

1. Clarifying Organizational Structure

Job descriptions specify who has responsibility for which tasks. This documentation helps each employee understand their role and how it fits into the broader organizational structure.

Taken together, a company’s job descriptions show managers where different responsibilities lie. In addition, they outline the organization’s overall structure and show where changes may need to happen.

2. Describing Employees’ Responsibilities

A lack of clarity around job responsibilities can lead to frustration, confusion, and ultimately burnout. According to Gallup research, the leading causes of burnout include:

  • Unfair treatment in the workplace
  • Unmanageable workloads
  • Unclear communication from managers

Vague job descriptions contribute to all of these issues. Employees who haven’t reviewed a clear job description are less likely to know what their managers expect. 

When employees don’t know what their managers expect, they feel less confident and engaged. As a result, they may avoid taking the initiative and even “fail” to fulfill their responsibilities — primarily because they don’t realize something was part of their job.

A strong job description clarifies an employee’s duties. It tells the employee what their employer expects of them, how their role fits into the organization, and whom they report to.

Job descriptions are also essential resources for performance reviews. For example, if the employee has reviewed and acknowledged their job description, their manager can refer to it to indicate whether the employee met, exceeded, or failed to reach expectations.

3. Recruiting the Best Candidates

According to the National Federation of Independent Business, more than a quarter of business owners said they had job openings that had seen no qualified applicants in July 2022. Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3.5% of Americans were unemployed by March 2023.

Businesses need accurate and engaging job postings to match the right people with the right jobs. Quality job descriptions are how they get there.

A good job description describes a role’s key responsibilities and the skills and qualities someone needs to do the job well. Recruiters and HR leaders need to take those details from the description and phrase them in a way that attracts suitable candidates.

4. Fulfilling Legal Requirements

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), someone is qualified for a job if they can perform its essential functions with or without reasonable accommodations. An accommodation is reasonable as long as it doesn’t cause the employer undue hardship.

The job description must include all the essential functions for ADA compliance purposes. 

Elements of an Effective Job Description

A job description needs to describe all of the functions and circumstances of the position, including:

  • Company name
  • Job title
  • Summary of the position
  • Essential job functions
  • Physical demands and environmental conditions
  • Reporting structure
  • Supervisory duties
  • Work schedule
  • Work location
  • Travel expectations
  • Exemption status under the Fair Labor Standards Act

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends job analyses for employers writing job descriptions. Analyses use reports from employees who are established in the role and information from coworkers and supervisors to develop a detailed description.

Describing Remote and Hybrid Positions

Work schedules and locations are critical factors in the post-COVID-19 era. In a survey of 1,700 workers, SHRM Research found that 48% would “definitely” pursue a remote position for their next job. Many would settle for an on-site job, but they’d need a salary bump of up to 20% to compensate for the commute.

But fully remote work isn’t necessarily the top choice. According to a Gallup poll, only 32% of employees with remote-possible jobs want to be remote all the time. Nearly twice as many — 59% — prefer a hybrid arrangement, working partially remotely and partially in the office.

These employees say hybrid work allows for a better work-life balance while also providing opportunities to connect in person with coworkers. Employers must understand this balance and create job descriptions that align with employees’ needs.

Creating a Schedule

The same Gallup poll showed most workers want to work in the office half of the time or less. Four in 10 want to decide when they commute, whereas six in 10 want the employer or team to coordinate a schedule.

Because workers and job seekers have varied opinions on what type of hybrid schedule is ideal, employers’ best bet is to work things out with their current team. Then, they can develop a set of expectations and add them to their job descriptions. 

Clarifying Hybrid Expectations

A lack of clarity around remote and in-office schedules confuses job seekers. Candidates understandably struggle to understand phrasing like “partially in-office” or “primarily remote.” They wonder whether they’ll have to go in once a week, once a month, or every other day.

These vague descriptions spell trouble for employers, too. The less specific a job description is about how often employees must come into the office, the more strife the arrangement can create.

For example, perhaps a job description asks for two days a week in the office. The hiring manager interviews a stellar candidate, only to find that the candidate expects to choose which two days they’ll commute. Instead, the company prefers for teams to agree on two in-office days on which the entire group will be present at the same time.

Organizations must create hybrid policies to avoid these situations before publicizing “hybrid” work to candidates. It’s essential to be as specific as possible in these descriptions to avoid confusion. If a typical employee would have any questions, more details are necessary.

Describing the Location and Schedule

Many candidates and employees feel strongly about the type of hybrid schedule they prefer or need. They need to know their employer has thought carefully about its policy and has implemented it for the good of everyone involved.

Employers should describe their hybrid work policy in the work location and scheduling sections of their job descriptions. The facts should be there, but so should the reasoning behind them. For example:

Our workplace follows a hybrid schedule. Each team has one set in-office day per week, and employees may select two additional days to work remotely. This creates space for crucial team-building while allowing our people the flexibility they need to be healthy and productive. This position is part of the sales team, which works in-office on Mondays.

If an organization allows employees to choose remote workdays but has certain restrictions — for example, employees cannot work remotely on days with client meetings — those details also need to be in the job description. 

Remember, this is the document managers will refer to if an employee pushes back on the policy or claims ignorance.

Making Job Descriptions Easy

Writing a comprehensive and accurate job description is a big task. Fortunately, Resourcing Edge has developed a brief Job Description Questionnaire to help employers collect all the necessary information. The questionnaire covers two types of positions:

  • Common positions: jobs such as receptionist, executive assistant, chief operating officer, and registered nurse, which have relatively standard responsibilities and requirements across organizations
  • Unique positions: roles the organization has developed from scratch, customized, or created by mixing responsibilities

For common positions, Resourcing Edge will provide a sample job description for clients to review and edit. Clients will fill out the remainder of the form to provide information such as the work location, schedule, and supervisory duties.

For unique positions, clients will complete a blank form and include all the details described in the list above. Resourcing Edge will integrate the information into our job description template.

Clients will also receive a Job Analysis and Physical Demands Checklist for ADA compliance purposes. This tool enables employers to indicate whether an employee must perform specific actions or work in certain conditions “never,” “occasionally,” or “constantly.” Conditions include:

  • Noisy environments
  • Small or enclosed spaces
  • Ascending or descending ladders or stairs
  • Sitting or standing for extended periods
  • Lifting or carrying an employer-specified level of poundage
  • Assessing the accuracy or neatness of the employee’s own work

This information helps Resourcing Edge create comprehensive job descriptions for accommodation purposes. It also helps employees determine whether a position is a good fit.

To start the job description compilation process, ask your Client Account Manager for the questionnaire. Once a draft is complete, you will receive it for review. Resourcing Edge will use your comments to create a finalized PDF copy for your files.

It’s that easy — and you’ll reap the benefits for years.

Jami Beckwith

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