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What Are Some Best Practices for Rewriting Job Descriptions?

July 10, 2013

Dear New Definitions:

Many healthcare organizations are in the same boat. New roles are being created to meet the emerging needs of the changing healthcare industry as traditional roles are also rapidly changing. For example, we're finding that many hospitals are hiring for a CMO role, which was practically unheard of just a few years ago. Clearly, your organization is not alone in rewriting job descriptions as the industry charts new waters. Your existing job descriptions probably do not reflect current company strategy so you may, in fact, be hiring based on outdated or even obsolete job descriptions.

And that can form the basis for how you communicate this initiative to your employees without causing undue alarm. Consider positioning this effort as part of a continual improvement project: a yearly review and update of selected job-family descriptions to keep them fresh as a way to attract the best and most qualified candidates.

On the other hand, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that just as many employees welcome these changes rather than find them alarming. If your charter is to grow and/or make your business more efficient and profitable, you have to hire the right kind of talent. Accurate, engaging job descriptions are the foundation for hiring and managing the type of great talent that can make that happen. And your employees will appreciate working alongside colleagues who are competent, a good fit with the job and your organization. Well-written job descriptions can help you accomplish that.

As far as getting started, begin by creating a template so each description has the same format. Include specific sections to be completed such as job summary, responsibilities, qualifications, education and/or experience needed, travel requirements, level of decision making, level of managerial experience required. These last two areas are not typically included in most job descriptions but, when combined with the other information, will give a clearer picture. View a sample template here.

Then, gather specific feedback from people who are currently doing that particular job to ensure the job descriptions accurately reflects that position. Also seek input from managers who will be evaluating the position to make sure the requirements accurately reflect what they expect from the job. Oftentimes, there is a disconnect between the actual duties and the manager's expectations of the role so now is the best time to align them so the role and accountabilities are in sync.

Updating and rewriting job descriptions can be time-consuming and cumbersome, but with advancements in cloud technology, streamlining the process (using, for example, Google Docs, a free Web-based document-management platform) is extremely beneficial. Follow a few simple steps:

  1. Upload current job descriptions stored in word or PDF documents to a Google Docs folder. Set the system to auto convert each to a Google Doc format.
  2. Share each job descriptions with the appropriate incumbent in the role and ask that person to review and edit for current relevancy
  3. Share each job descriptions with the appropriate supervisor to the role and ask that person to review and edit for current relevancy
  4. You now have legally compliant and updated job descriptions that are living documents you can access and update anytime as the roles and requirement change or annually if in growth mode.
  5. Optional: Conduct a conference call with the supervisor and incumbent in each role once steps 1-3 are done and review the final revised job descriptions with them to determine if there are any additional revisions needed or things to add based upon your expert input and questions.

A review of the completed templates to ensure well-defined and relevant information has been entered into each of the sections is the best evaluation of effectiveness and completion. Taking these steps will provide an effective job description that sets clear expectations and a shared understanding of the role for use in filling open positions, as well as employee development.

Source: Gayle A. Norton, talentRISE LLC, Chicago, June 15, 2013

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.