The unsung hero of job evaluation

This seemingly simple document acts as the foundation upon which the entire evaluation rests, shaping internal pay structures and attracting and retaining talent.

WHILE many components contribute to a successful job evaluation process, one element reigns supreme: the job description.

This seemingly simple document acts as the foundation upon which the entire evaluation rests, shaping internal pay structures and attracting and retaining talent.

Unfortunately, the crucial role of the job description is often overlooked, leading to inaccuracies, biases, and, ultimately, flawed evaluations. In this article, I will explain the importance of well-crafted job descriptions in job evaluation, highlighting the perils of neglecting this cornerstone.

We will explore the dangers of managers neglecting validation, the problematic influence of incumbent inflation, and unveil best practices for creating accurate and reliable job descriptions that empower successful evaluations.

The power of precision

Job evaluation aims to assess the relative worth of different positions within an organisation. This delicate process necessitates an in-depth understanding of each role's demands, responsibilities, and impact. Enter the job description, which serves as a comprehensive roadmap outlining the essence of the position. A precise and objective job description provides several critical benefits:

Fair and unbiased evaluation: A clear picture of the job facilitates an impartial assessment, minimising the influence of subjective interpretations and personal biases.

Transparency and consistency: A standardised format and well-defined criteria across job descriptions ensure internal equity and consistency in the evaluation process.

The pitfalls of neglect

Despite their significance, job descriptions often receive insufficient attention, particularly regarding validation. This negligence creates a breeding ground for inaccuracies and inconsistencies, jeopardising the evaluation process and its outcomes. The dangers of overlooking validation include:

Job creep: Unchecked job descriptions may balloon over time, accumulating duties beyond the core responsibilities, leading to inaccurate evaluations and inflated compensation structures.

Subjectivity: Ambiguous descriptions open the door for personal interpretations and favouritism, undermining the fairness and transparency of the evaluation process.

External market disparities: Outdated or inaccurate descriptions can lead to pay structures misaligned with external market trends, making the organisation uncompetitive in attracting and retaining talent.

Incumbent inflation:  Internal threat

Beyond managerial neglect, another significant challenge arises from the internal stakeholders themselves: Incumbents. With a vested interest in their compensation and career progression, some individuals may attempt to inflate the job description, exaggerating responsibilities, skills required, and the overall importance of the role. This "incumbent inflation" distorts the true nature of the job and has detrimental consequences:

Artificially inflated pay structures: Inflated descriptions lead to higher job grades and unwarranted compensation increases, creating internal pay inequities and unsustainable costs.

Difficulty attracting qualified candidates: Exaggerated requirements deter suitable candidates, making it harder to find qualified individuals for the actual role.

Demotivation and frustration: When inflated evaluations become the norm, genuinely demanding jobs may not receive adequate recognition, leading to demotivation and resentment among employees.

Building better job descriptions

The good news is that these pitfalls are not insurmountable. By implementing best practices, organisations can craft reliable and accurate job descriptions that underpin a robust and transparent job evaluation process:

Regular review and validation: Conduct periodic reviews of job descriptions involving supervisors, incumbents, and external experts to ensure accuracy and relevance.

Focus on objective criteria: Base job descriptions on criteria such as skills required, decision-making authority, impact on the organisation, and market analysis, minimising subjective interpretations.

Clear and concise language: Avoid jargon and ambiguity, utilising clear and concise language that accurately reflects the essential duties and responsibilities of the role.

Collaboration and transparency: Involve relevant stakeholders, including incumbents, supervisors, and HR professionals, in the creation and validation process to foster openness and ownership.

Conclusion: Investing in foundation

A well-crafted job description is the cornerstone of a successful job evaluation process.

By recognising its importance, investing in its accuracy, and guarding against internal biases, organisations can build a foundation for fair and equitable compensation structures, attract and retain top talent, and pave the way for a motivated and productive workforce.  Remember, neglecting the job description is not an option; it is an investment in your organisation's present and future success.

This can manifest in lack of collaboration, difficulty working in teams, and a disregard for the perspectives and contributions of others. Narcissistic individuals may also struggle with receiving feedback or criticism, hindering their personal growth and development. Their focus on self-promotion and self-interest may overshadow the collective goals and objectives of the team or organization.

Conscientiousness: Conscientiousness is characterized by being organized, responsible, and dependable. Individuals with low conscientiousness may struggle with meeting deadlines, following through on commitments, and maintaining attention to detail. They may exhibit disorganized work habits, be prone to procrastination, or have difficulty prioritizing tasks effectively. This can result in missed deadlines, incomplete work, and a lack of reliability. Additionally, individuals low in conscientiousness may struggle with time management skills, leading to inefficiencies in their work processes.

Agreeableness refers to being cooperative, friendly, and considerate towards others. Individuals low in agreeableness may have difficulty working collaboratively or building positive relationships with colleagues. They may prefer conflict or confrontation more than common ground or compromise. This can lead to interpersonal conflicts within teams or departments and hinder effective communication and cooperation. Moreover, individuals low in agreeableness may be less likely to seek feedback or input from others, limiting their ability to benefit from diverse perspectives.

In conclusion, being qualified but incompetent is a perplexing and often frustrating reality in many professional settings. While individuals may possess the necessary qualifications, degrees, and technical skills for a particular job, their performance may fall short due to various factors, lack of cognitive capacity and personality defects. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge that qualifications alone do not guarantee competence in a role.

  • Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and HR consulting firm. Phone +263 24 248 1 946-48/ 2290 0276, cell number +263 772 356 361 or e-mail: [email protected] or visit


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