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By: Samantha Allison on November 15th, 2018

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Job Titles, Job Descriptions and their Impact on your Business

Total Rewards | Risk Management | Best Practices | Talent Acquisition

Many of my clients are surprised when I share that a proper job title and well-written job description are two fundamental building blocks in a successful search for the right employee. Both a job title and the description are the first impressions an applicant has of your company, and it is essential that they are accurate while defining the job.

If the job title does not accurately reflect the role or if the job description is not well written, it can become a barrier to your company successfully hiring the right candidate. It is important to understand the major impacts the two can have on your business. Let's take a look at what the impact can be...

Losing Out on Key Talent

Pretend you are the candidate searching for a new job. What is the first thing you type in the search bar? Probably the job title. And if you see a job title you like, what is the second thing you do? You read the job description.

Download the guide: 20 Question to Ask Your HR Leader

Candidates search for jobs based on their past job experiences and their knowledge of what each job entails. When they see a title or description that doesn’t quite fit their profile or what they are looking for, they usually pass on it as it makes them feel the role and/or your company is not aligned with their background. Or even worse, it could put a bad taste in the candidate's mouth about your company. And because of that, you could lose out on a great candidate for a different role in the future, due to mislabeling your jobs or not describing them properly.

When done correctly, a job description emphasizes your employer brand. It helps create a solid foundation for a culture your candidates will want to be a part of. Doing so will allow your brand to grow and give your company the boost it needs to continually bring in key talent.

Misalignment on Expectations & Lowered Engagement

When job descriptions and job titles aren't given correct attention, it can cause a domino effect and a breakdown in communication in the workplace. If both are clear and concise, your chances of having gaps in communication are smaller. Job descriptions give the employer and the employee a solid foundation for performance and establish the employer's expectations of the role. If the description is not clearly aligned it can cause poor performance, eventually lower engagement and may cause the employee to leave the organization.

Job titles can also cause an employee’s performance and engagement to diminish. The Spherion survey, conducted online with market research data collection organization Research Now, found that nearly half the workforce (42%) are dissatisfied with their job title. People take pride in their job titles and if an employee doesn’t feel proud in their position, it can cause lower satisfaction. Causing lower engagement, breakdowns in communication, and a strain on the business. Taking the time to align the title to the description helps the employee better understand their role in the organization.

Financial Implications

When you sit down to determine a job title and write a job description, consider the financial impact it can have on your business.  Choosing the right title and writing out a well thought out job description can actually save your company money. The average cost per hire in 2017 is $4,129.00 and the average time to fill a given position is 42 days according to a survey conducted by SHRM (dependent on geographical location).  If your job title and description are inaccurate, these numbers can escalate and create a strain on the business.

Additionally, when an employee starts their new job, very few times is an employee put right to work. They are acclimated to the job, which means; attending training, learning the business, onboarding, sit-downs with managers, taking time away from other employees. All of these things can continue to cost the business money due to lack of production and efficiency. If a new employee chooses to leave the organization because the work is different from what they were seeking, your company has incurred onboarding costs and you will not see a return for your initial investment.

Legal Risks

Job descriptions are not required by law, nor are they legally binding. They should be an accurate portrayal of the job’s functions to help minimize legal implications. When writing out job descriptions, consider some of the major impacts they can have on business:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Job descriptions provide a strong base for the essential functions of the job. Once employed, an employee must be able to perform the job functions listed in the description with or without accommodations. If the job description properly outlines the duties, it will show the candidate/employee what is expected to perform the job. If the employee does not have a clear picture of the job, they may request accommodations that can potentially create an undue hardship on the business.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – Ensuring job responsibilities are outlined clearly, is key for the FLSA. Job descriptions determine if the role is an exempt or non-exempt employee. Each position must be classified correctly because it can have other implications in areas such as overtime and benefits.
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) - When an employee is returning from leave, the job description helps determine when the employee can come back to work, and whether accommodations may need to be considered. An accurate list of the essential job functions can help the employer best support the individual returning from leave and minimize risk.

Determining the right job title for your company and making sure its accompanied by a well thought out job description isn’t always easy. Here are some tips that may help make this process easier for you.

Recommended readingAchieving Your Organizational Goals with Strategic HR

Top 5 Tips to Even Better Job Titles and Job Descriptions

  1. Benchmarking
    1. Start by identifying roles in your organization that are easy and clear to define and use those to define the rest of your jobs and levels throughout the company.
  2. Try not to complicate the job title
    1. Take a look at the market and see what other companies are using to attract talent. Educate yourself on other jobs and their role and responsibilities. Measure your titles and descriptions based on that.
  3. Focus on the knowledge, skills, and abilities, that are needed to complete the job.
    1. This will allow you to focus on the right title and better define what the job entails.
  4. Get input from your recruiters
    1. Recruiters talk to candidates every day and know what they are looking for. Their input could be helpful when choosing the job title or when you're writing your descriptions.
  5. Pinpoint challenging roles
    1. Determine the jobs you are having a hard time filling. Take a second or third look at the descriptions and titles and see and see what can be adjusted to attract the right talent to the position.

There are always going to be instances when you will lose a candidate, such as salary, location of the job, and/or competition, but you never want to lose a candidate because the title or the descriptions aren’t a reflection of the job or your culture. Focusing on the impacts above and using the tips provided can help you to better achieve your goals of bringing in top talent.

Download the guide: 20 Question to Ask Your HR Leader