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Montana Nonprofit Association Blog

Musings, stories, and resources for the nonprofit sector in Montana.

Consultant's Corner - Ruth French

(Org. Development) Permanent link   All Posts

Job Descriptions Make the HR World go ‘Round
by Ruth French, HR Consultant, Associated Employers


Have you thought about the importance of job descriptions in your relationship with your employees?  Many organizations do not value job descriptions enough because they are not aware of the many uses to which they can apply.  A well-written job description can help an employer manage its relationship with its employees through the entire circle -- from hire to discharge. Job descriptions define the work relationship.  Let’s look at the uses of job descriptions as an employer works with its employees.

It is also through a well-written job description that an employer can determine whether the position is classified as exempt or non-exempt under state and federal wage and hour laws.

Recruiting. Prior to an employer even advertising for an opening, a job description for the position should be created or, if one exists, it should be reviewed to determine whether it still accurately reflects the conduct, attendance, and performance expectations of the position.  By using the job description to create a job posting, an employer can ensure that it is getting the most qualified applicants for the opening.  In addition, by creating interview questions based on the duties required for the position, the employer will be able to explore the applicant’s suitability for the job, making good hiring decisions based on the specific job requirements.

Orientation/Training.  Once the new employee is hired, the manager can use the job description to orient the new employee to the tasks that are required of the position, and provide training in any areas that the employee may be lacking.

Performance Management.  The essential functions from a job description should be used to evaluate how an employee is performing in his/her position.  The employee’s supervisor can use the duties described in the job description to set the employee’s performance expectations and hold the employee accountable to those during the year.  At the end of the year, when formal performance appraisals are done, those duties listed in the employee’s job description can be used to fairly evaluate the employee’s performance, along with other performance measurements of abilities such as initiative and interpersonal communication, etc. if applicable.  The strongest and fairest evaluations are based on how well an employee performs duties outlined in the job description.  If a manager begins to see performance issues with an employee, the job description can be used to coach and counsel the employee on correcting those performance issues to bring the standard back to expectations, and then move into the formal discipline process if the performance does not improve.

Wage and Salary Administration.  An organization’s compensation system requires that jobs be classified and evaluated in terms that make comparisons possible.  It is with job descriptions for each position that employers can determine the relationship of the positions within its organization, the relative worth of each position, and establish compensation strategies for the organization.  In addition, the job description can be used in conducting salary surveys and comparing your organization’s positions with those of other organizations.  It is also through a well-written job description that an employer can determine whether the position is classified as exempt or non-exempt under state and federal wage and hour laws.

Legal Issues.  Well-written job descriptions are an organization’s first line of defense against claims under the Montana Human Rights Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Absent written documentation of the essential functions and the physical and mental demands of the job, the organization may be required to make accommodations to individuals with disabilities where it would not have otherwise been legally required to do so.

Learn more and register for Ruth's webinar series "Avoiding Lawsuits and Unfair Employment Practices: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You."

Ruth A. French, PHR, is a Human Resource Consultant with Associated Employers in Billings, Montana, a private Employers Association that provides Business and Human Resources expertise to its members.  To learn more, please visit us at


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