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Four ways job descriptions can help you and your team

The story of Somebody, Everybody, Nobody and Anybody

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it.  It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

If this story is all too familiar in your workplace, you may benefit from providing clear job descriptions to your team.

1. Delivering quality care and service to your customers

Depending on who your customer is, and what your primary service provides, will determine the impact of doing the job well, or not so well. Providing each member of your team with a written job description means each level of customer care can be addressed by an appropriately allocated, and skilled, person.

The smallest task can have a big impact if it’s not done well, or worse, not done at all.  An example of this could be the person who’s role it is to order supplies for the First Aid Kit. It may not be a resource that’s used every day, but the consequence of not having adequate supplies on the occasion you do need it, could be critical.

The importance in a health, aged, disability care or early childhood setting ultimately translates to the care of people. Someone is allocated a variety of tasks essential to the overall quality of care to those that we are employed to look after. It means there should be no gaps in care therefore decreasing the likelihood of incidents.

Not documenting or recording information about the care provided, an incident that has occurred, or something that needs to be fixed is another example where things could go very wrong. Not being clear with someone that they are required to fill out paperwork or register where medications have been issued, how much was issued and when, could have significant consequences for the people being cared for, and also for the care-giver.

Documentation responsibility is the kind of detail you would include in a job description.

I’m sure everyone could think of examples in their workplace where the impacts would be great if the job was not done, or done poorly. Putting measures in place such as providing your staff a job description makes for better clarity and greater quality outcomes.

When customers are happy with their level of service they are likely to not only return, but to recommend your services to others.

2. Greater clarity within your team – whose job is it anyway?

Like the story of Somebody, Nobody, Everybody and Anybody, when people are unclear about their own jobs, you can be certain they’ll be unclear of the jobs of other team members. This can really inhibit effective team work and feed into a blame culture.

Where people are provided with clarity around their role and the expectations placed on them, they can be clearer about where their own role ends and where someone else should step in. This doesn’t mean that they should back away slowly with a ‘not my job’ pursed on their lips, it does however mean that for reporting and supervision purposes, important issues can be appropriately addressed with the right people.

Well written job descriptions can also be used as a means of mentoring, particularly for people knew to the industry and your organisation, and for supporting apprentices or trainees who are perhaps new to the workforce altogether. Being very clear about each task and what level of responsibility that person has over that task, provides a means of measuring output, and providing guidance where needed.

Job descriptions not only provide guidance about what is to be done by the people in your team when they are at work, but also in the event that you have to temporarily or permanently fill that role. You then have a guide to work from in knowing what tasks and duties are required of that role, what skills would be needed, and can allocate these within your current team, or use the job description to write a recruitment advertisement if necessary. (Tip: when you undertake recruitment exercises dedicate a little extra time to review the current job descriptions within your work team to ensure you are recruiting for the ‘right role’, not just to fill the gap you have).

When teams understand each other’s roles a little better, and when individuals have their own job description and understand their own responsibilities to the team, there’s a greater sense of joint ownership of the overall work.

3. Increased productivity and morale

Job descriptions provide staff a written measurement of not only what they are expected to do, but to what level. Individuals then have the means of monitoring their own work performance and outputs with potential to identify gaps in the role or offer suggestions for improvement. Inviting joint reflection encourages ownership of the role, leading to a greater sense of responsibility and pride for a job well done.

You can also use it as a tool of measuring performance at regular meetings, addressing any concerns or issues as they arise, so there are no surprises down the track. Job descriptions are instrumental when undertaking performance management exercises with staff where necessary, and on the upside, makes it very clear when milestones and performance indicators are being met, providing opportunity for celebration and acknowledgement.

When you employ someone and provide them with a job description, you are essentially entrusting them with tasks that are important to your service’s day to day running. Providing in writing what is required and what their performance indicators will be, promotes a sense of ownership and responsibility. By naming the tasks and outlining how they contribute to the overall function of the service, you’ll provide an understanding of the implication if things are not done, and not done to standard, further promoting responsibility. It also shows that you have a sense of value toward the work they contribute, naming what would seemingly be menial tasks shows that they are on the radar and are important.

Job descriptions also provide a means of reviewing the person’s responsibility against what they are actually doing on a daily basis. It may mean at some point you need to review a job description to see if it still fits. It can also assist in finding gaps in skills, opening up the opportunity to provide some professional development and training, or where necessary, a rise in pay level according to the actual tasks they are undertaking.

4. Expand your team

Whether advertising internally, externally or both, when filling a position vacant within your organisation, a job description can be the major selling point.

Providing an overview of the role is helpful to incite interest, however, the selective job seeker will be looking for more detail. Attaching a thorough job description to your advert provides minimal room for misunderstanding about the job you are filling and what expectations you have of the successful applicant. Applicants are then able to self-select their suitability or interest in that role, based on the tasks you outline as part of the requirements, minimising the number of unsuitable applicants you’ll receive for that job.

It can also provide an opportunity to showcase the kind of organisation you are, highlighting benefits and advantages of working for you, for example, flexible work arrangements, career advancement opportunities, potential training, learning and professional development, and any other rewards.

A well written job description with clear specifics of tasks, responsibilities, measures and performance indicators will be the reference point and recipe you need to get Somebody, Anybody, Everybody and Nobody all doing their bits together, and in isolation, to produce an effective, efficient service!

For further information about recruiting the right apprentice or trainee to your workplace, visit https://training.qld.gov.au/employers/apprentices

Alternatively, contact the Workforce Council at www.workforce.org.au or 1800 112 585.