write a great position description

How to Write a Great Position Description That Helps the Whole Team

One of the best ways to provide your staff with clarity and accountability, is to write a great position description that is well understood, and regularly reviewed.

Position descriptions are often pigeonholed into a HR department folder and filed away. Undermined as a checkbox task, position descriptions are highly underutilised. However, if position descriptions are engaged with, they have the opportunity to empower your staff by giving them clear direction.

Ultimately, time taken to communicate internal roles allows your staff to understand the position they hold in the overarching company strategy. By feeling a part of this strategy, employees are motivated to grow and succeed with it.Employee role descriptions set expectations for staff and easily allow management to recognise achievement as well as under-performance.

If you consider, for example, a large project. Before any work starts expectations are set and staff are delegated. Positions in the project are understood, discussed and implemented to achieve goals more efficiently. If you change the context to the modern workplace, how are they any different? Employees need positions descriptions and companies need staff who know what they’re doing.

Cafe worker

Photo: Clem Onojeghuo, Unsplash

 

Here’s how to write a great position description…

Position Title

When starting to write a great position description, begin with the position title. It makes complete sense that a position description would always start with a position title. However not all titles are created equal. A job title needs to accurately reflect the role and responsibilities of the individual. Ultimately, a position title needs to articulate where an employee stands in the overall company hierarchy.

While this may seem like the easiest step, a position title sets the tone for the rest of the description. It’s very important to get right and easy to get wrong; so here’s some advice.

  • If it goes over two lines on a business card, it’s too long;
  • Position titles should fit normal industry terms to be comparable;
  • Ensure that position titles are honest and truly reflects the employee’s responsibility level.

Position Statement

After the position title comes a position statement. This statement is a further iteration of the staff member’s title. It summarises the purpose of the position and how this employee fits in with the rest of the working environment and business goals.

Perhaps a more fluid way of understanding this statement is approaching it from the perspective of an elevator pitch. If you were to explain what you did for work to a stranger in a few sentences, this is would be your position statement. It would be a summation of your major responsibilities, goals and fit in the business – who you report too or work under.

 

write a great position description

Image: Unsplash

Responsibilities

Managing individual employee responsibilities is a mountain of a task, and one that can only be accomplished successfully through understanding and reiteration. When you write a great position description, outlining particular job responsibilities is a tangible way for both managers and employees to understand what it is they ‘do’.

One of the best ways to accomplish a mutual understanding is to not over complicate. A widely known navy proverb exists to this effect – keep it simple, stupid. Instead of writing paragraphs of role duties aim to succinctly list them in short statements. Around five is the ideal number.

Much like managing, understanding and delegating employee responsibilities is a big task, but by breaking information into digestible pieces, managers and employees are able to work confidently.

See our related post: 10 Ways to Improve your Employee Induction Process.

Role expectations

As well as responsibilities, role expectations need to be understood. Your staff are now aware of their title, responsibilities and fit in the grand scheme of the business. Role expectations however, are different in that they articulate tangible tasks the role requires.

As an example, while graphic designers are responsible for ensuring all projects are kept on time and budget, an expectation of such may be to design and maintain a website. Expectations differ from responsibilities because they literal and measurable duties.

Role requirements

Role requirements are integral to keeping your staff good at what they do. When constructing role requirements it’s necessary to examine the level of skill demanded by the role – what are these skills?

If we again consider the graphic designer, their role requirements would be a consideration of the competence needed to complete their responsibilities and expectations. In this case, a role requirement could be proficiency in the Adobe Creative suite.

Establishing role requirements when you write a great position description not only provides your employees with skill expectations but allows management to benchmark. Through bench marking, management is able to see which staff are excelling and who is lagging behind. With solid role requirements in place, staff are also able to reflect on where their skills sit in the company hierarchy, set goals for advancement and maintain relevance.

“People who have role clarity are much more likely to be engaged with the work they’re doing and with their organisation, and we know that high levels of employee engagement drive better business results.”
– Michael Sleap (HR consultant)

In Summary

Position descriptions are commonly undermined in the workplace, which is a detrimental mistake considering how advantageous they prove to be. Taking the time to collaborate with your employees to write a great position description gives everyone in your team clarity.

Outlining position titles, responsibilities, expectations and role requirements, provides your staff with accountability. Ultimately, employees who are accountable for their work do a better job.

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Written by

Monique Tilt is a Creative Advertising and Graphic Design student, with a second major in Advertising under Commerce; a complicated degree she’s studying at Curtin University.

In the long run, Monique aims to be a Creative Director, specifically focusing on graphic design and the new possibilities in digital marketing and web advertising.

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