Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Importance of a Job Description

In the world of education, as in the business world, administrators must assess the needs of the organization and make decisions about how best to meet those needs. Many times, administrators with vision meet organizational needs by creating new positions and by hiring new personnel. Perhaps an HR position needs to be created to manage the increasing number of employees, employee needs and future hires. Perhaps an Academic Dean must be hired to vertically align curriculum and begin the process of teaching across the curriculum. There exist countless needs waiting to be met in many schools and districts. Visionary leaders and administrators can meet those needs by creating new positions or by shuffling responsibilities so needs are met by current employees.

As John Maxwell points out in his book The Difference Maker, change must be managed. It is one thing to make a change but, to be effective, leaders and administrators must manage the change they institute. One of the simplest ways to manage the change of creating a new position or of shuffling responsibilities assigned to current positions within an organization is to create detailed job descriptions for new and for redefined positions.

A Venn diagram perfectly illustrates the need for accurate job descriptions for new and altered positions. Let the circle on the left represent a position that has existed in the organization for some time. Let the circle on the right represent a new position created by a visionary leader to meet needs that have arisen within the organization. The area inside the circle on the left and the area inside the circle on the right represent the responsibilities of each position as perceived by the employee holding that position. Without clear job descriptions for each position, the circles overlap and responsibilities are confused. The resulting confusion stems from two (or more) people trying to do the same job or trying to fulfill the same responsibilities. Conversely, responsibilities and tasks can be overlooked or forgotten altogether because each employee believes the other has it covered.

Once job descriptions have been written, they should be given to each employee in the department, within the office, etc. In other words, if a position is created on the administrative team, all members of the team should be provided with the job description for the new position.
Furthermore, written job descriptions can contribute to the long-term stability of the organization. Without written job descriptions for each position in the organization, turnover of personnel and changes in leadership will lead to disorganization, confusion and inefficiency. Whether creating new positions or redefining pre-existing positions, written job descriptions are a must.


Phil said...

This is a helpful post, and much good food for thought. It is a given and a must, but not always communicated or articulated effectively. This is timely.

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