HR Strategy | By Tom Murphy,

Why Bad Job Descriptions Are Dangerous

A great job description performs several important functions. It provides appropriate criteria for new hires, structure for current employees, and a basis for conducting performance reviews. And yet how many of us have worked in positions with outdated, inadequate or non-existent job descriptions?

Just about all of us.

Why are job descriptions such a challenge?

One of the challenges of keeping up with job descriptions is growth, both at the corporate and individual level. When business is booming, we often put the focus on production over process. We expand our teams rapidly, while telling ourselves we don’t have time to document all of the details. We’ll get to that later.

Meanwhile, when we hire the right people, they naturally tend to grow their positions over time. Once they have the basic job down, they start learning new skills and taking on more responsibilities.

And while this kind of professional growth can keep the team and leadership happy, it can leave individual job descriptions looking pretty sad. HR Managers may also be quite sad when the time comes to fill a position that no longer has an accurate description attached to it.

What happens if you let things go?

In addition to making it harder for your Human Resource team to recruit the right people, inaccurate job descriptions make it difficult to assess employee performance and determine appropriate compensation structures. On occasion, it could even lead to litigation.

Accurate job descriptions help promote proper FLSA job classification, facilitate ADA and OSHA compliance, and reduce the risk of company liability issues.

How to stay on top of job descriptions

If regularly updating job descriptions isn’t making it to the top of your weekly or monthly to-do list, try conducting an annual job analysis for each position in your organization. If this idea strikes terror in your heart, don’t worry. By no means do you have to analyze all of your positions every January or December.

A more manageable approach would be to use employee anniversary dates. With each passing year, ask your staff a few key questions about their job functions and how they may have changed.

Examples of Job Analysis Questions:

  • What are your major job responsibilities?
  • Which of these take up most of your time?
  • Has anything changed in the last year?
    • New tasks?
    • Tasks you are no longer responsible for?
  • Which of these responsibilities are most critical? Least critical?
  • What specific skills and tools do you need to be good at your job?
  • What education and/or personal qualities are necessary to be successful in this role?

Instituting the process will help you maintain an accurate record of each position in your organization, and establish the skills you need to look for when recruiting and hiring. The bonus here is that you can also tie this exercise in with any self-evaluation and/or performance management processes you have in place.

Don’t wait… Update!

Now is the perfect time to ask yourself, “Are our job descriptions out of date?” If the answer is yes, it’s time to get to work. Help your job descriptions help you. If they’re well-written, accurate, and up to date, they’ll deliver.


Is your employee benefits broker also a compliance consultant? How about a trusted business partner? Are you confident your policies and processes are doing what they need to ensure that your company—you’re your employees— are healthy and productive? As Sonus Benefits, this is what we do for St. Louis employers every single day.

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