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Last Updated February 16, 2021

Give purpose to position descriptions

Ever wondered why your business needs to have position descriptions?

A position description is used to document and outline the duties and responsibilities of a position, outline required skills and experiences to perform the role and to provide clarification around expectations.

A position description also has a variety of purposes. 

It can be used to attract candidates during a recruitment process, provide clarification around expectations in a performance review or performance management conversation, and it can also be used in identifying training requirements to meet necessary skill sets and experiences required to perform the role.

Therefore it is important to not only prepare a position descriptions but to consider the following when doing so:

  • Know where the position will fit into the rest of the organisation structure, including reporting lines and division of duties
  • Take the time to consider the job design including what changes are happening in the future to the business and industry that may impact the focus of the role and how it operates
  • Ensure that the main duties outline a high level list of duties rather than specific details of how to complete tasks
  • Describe the function of the position.  A position description does not provide details of the actual person in the role or who you wish to have in the role.
  • Consider what similar positions are in the marketplace and what type of candidates are available

There are many ways to write a position description, but a best practice document should include the following:

Summary: In a few sentences provide a brief description of the position including the purpose, environmental context and scope.

Responsibilities: Provide a list of the key duties and responsibilities expected to be performed, breaking it into short and clear statements.

Experience and skills: Outline necessary skill sets, work experience and qualifications including formal training and professional memberships that are required or state no previous experience or skills are necessary if you are wanting to train people on the job.

Other information that you might like to consider including in a position description could include the following: 

Company details: including company mission, culture and any benefits it provides to employees. It may also specify the title of whom the position reports, work location, employment type, and salary range.

Accountability: of the position will vary depending on the level of position and can include budget allocations, level of decision making, staff management and key internal and external relationships.

Selection criteria: is helpful to separate which are essential and desirable including education/qualifications, work experience, technology packages, interpersonal skills as well as leadership and management requirements.

Corporate Responsibilities: will vary depending on the level of the position and can include reporting requirements, responsibility for occupational health and safety or adherence to policies and procedures 

Notes: about more general requirements of the position including additional information to assist with providing a clear outline of the requirements of the role including; span of hours, additional hours, after hours meetings or training, physical requirements, and exposure to any risks or occupational hazards.

Additional information: about requirements and provision for the position including travel requirements, variation to location, working from home arrangements or equipment requirements.

The best practice approach to position descriptions involves providing all employees with a copy of their position description, regularly reviewing the document to ensure it is current and keeping a copy on employee files.

As position descriptions are used during recruitment and throughout employment, it is important that businesses carefully plan and prepare effective position descriptions, and that they remain up to date. There are a number of benefits in doing so including attracting and selecting the right candidates, ensuring an employee clearly understands their role, as well as to monitor progress and manage performance.

Contact Small Business Society for assistance with implementing best practice position descriptions in your business.

The information provided in this document is for your guidance only and is general in nature. It does not constitute as legal advice. It is the responsibility of the individual to seek legal advice where required.

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About Kate Tongue

Kate Tongue is the founding Director of Small Business Society.

She is a qualified and experienced Human Resources professional with more than 10 years of experience across the private and public sectors.

Her particular interest and experience is in managing the employee life cycle, delivering process improvements, and Human Resource strategy.

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