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Job descriptions matter the most

Memory Nguwi
JOB evaluation is the process of determining the relative worth of each position within an organisation. It is the initial stage of determining the price of jobs.

Organisations typically utilise a technique known as pay structuring to provide value to a position.

The development of job descriptions that are credible, impartial, and practical is the first step in the process of evaluating jobs.

Developing job descriptions is an essential part of the job evaluation process. The tragic reality is that the process of establishing job descriptions is frequently executed incorrectly.

Whenever an organisation embarks on a job evaluation process, they need to update the job descriptions if they are already available, or they can develop from scratch if non-existent. Let us look at some challenges with developing the right job descriptions for evaluation.

Most organisations rely on the incumbents when developing job descriptions. While this is fine if done properly, it is often mismanaged.

Education — Incumbents tend to put what they have instead of the minimum qualification required for a person to do the job competently.

Incumbents should not be allowed to put the qualifications they possess. What should be recorded on a job description under qualifications are the minimum qualifications.

The manager’s responsibility is to check for the accuracy of qualifications that incumbents record on a job description.

Experience — Incumbents often put what they have instead of the minimum experience required to do the job.

In some instances, you find a job requiring a minimum of three years’ experience with five years indicated because the incumbent has been in that role for that long.

Job duties — When putting responsibilities on a job description, focus on what the job currently handles and not as it was in the past or what it would be in the future.

Job incumbents know job evaluation is important and may result in a higher grade; therefore, they deliberately exaggerate certain duties.

The manager’s responsibility is to check these duties to ensure that the job duties reflect the true work that the incumbent does.

The other challenge with job descriptions is that they largely depend on the incumbent and what they put down. The other way to address this incumbent bias is to take the job descriptions through a validation process. The incumbent will do the job description, the supervisor will check, and Subject Matter Experts (SME) will do the final check. The SMEs are other people who are knowledgeable about the job and are qualified to give an honest opinion on what the job does. These can be people who occupied this role before. but were promoted into a more senior role.

The human resources division must be the third layer of quality control. Given their knowledge of the job, the human resource staff should be able to ask questions that will help in improving the quality of the job description.

The way to improve the quality of the information used in the job evaluation is to allow the grading committee to call the incumbent and their manager for oral evidence. This should be the last resort in cases where the committee feels that the job description is unclear or there is insufficient information.

The biggest obstacle to quality job descriptions is that the incumbent often puts effort into developing the job descriptions, but the supervisors rarely do quality control.

They often raise issues when the job is over-graded or under-graded.

In most cases, the supervisor or manager only wakes up when the grading results are out.

At this stage, they are likely to raise issues to do with missing information or duties listed on the job description, which in their opinion, are not done by the incumbent.

In practice, to address managers not checking the job descriptions, they are often asked to put their signature once they have reviewed the job profile to certify that the job description reflects the work the incumbent does in that role. This has not worked as poor quality job descriptions persist.

Another way to improve the quality of job descriptions is to allow a consultant to interview both the incumbent and the manager in the process of compiling the job description.

The consultant interviews the incumbent first.

Once that is completed, they then validate the job duties and qualifications with the manager. Through this process, the manager will be forced to reflect on the responsibilities since this will be a face-to-face discussion.

The biggest risk in any job evaluation is poor job descriptions. Do everything you can to ensure that you get quality job descriptions.

This approach has several benefits; reduced number of appeals and correct pricing of jobs.

Remember, incorrect job descriptions could lead to over or underpricing some jobs. The two negative consequences are costly to the organisation.

  • Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and HR consulting firm. https://www.thehumancapitalhub.com or e-mail: mnguwi@ipcconsultants.com.

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