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2021 HR Refresh - Start With Job Descriptions

Written by CMG News Contributor, Mindy Flanigan

2020 has publicly taught many businesses, of all shapes and sizes, the lessons of a quick pivot and remote work. As subject matters experts on and advocates for remote working, the Inspiring HR team has been carefully observing how clients' use of systems, standard operating procedures, communication skills, and performance feedback (or lack thereof), has helped or hurt them during this challenging time of change.

Though it may seem like a mundane administrative task, Job Descriptions serve many purposes. And while many changes that organizations put in place due to COVID-19 were meant to be temporary, many employers find themselves confessing that some aspects of their jobs, or how they deal with challenges, have changed irrevocably.

Job Description purposes that benefit your business.

1. Recruiting:

Every business should find comfort in knowing that Job Descriptions are a reflection of a company’s commitment to a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory workplace overall, starting with hiring.

Developing a thorough Job Description is step one in finding attracting, screening and interviewing the best fit candidates. These important documents define your applicant screening process, aid in creating effective interview questions, and are a necessary tool to write a fabulous Job Posting (ad). Job Descriptions “tell the story”; minimum qualifications to be considered for a phone screen, skills and abilities requires to do the job and the primary duties for which the position is entrusted to accomplish on a day to day basis.

Now that you have made adjustments for remote work, flex scheduling, possible changes in product services & delivery, or safety protocols among other things, do your Job Descriptions accurately reflect your hiring needs? Also, effective in 2021, states like Colorado will require that compensation be listed in job postings to promote pay equity, which means that you will need Job Descriptions to justify pay rates.

2. New Employee Onboarding:

Job descriptions are an effective communication tool in spelling out the details of the job requirements to new hires; saving the company time, money, and confusion during the hiring process. This clarity upfront sets the tone for the employee experience.

Let’s be honest, who can afford to lose a new employee who didn’t have a good onboarding experience these days? Starting over is too expensive and time consuming not to onboard properly.

3. On-The-Job:

Written properly, Job Descriptions can be an intricate part of employee accountability, coaching for improvements, mentoring for growth and conducting periodic reviews, which may include a compensation change. If your roles have changed in 2020, have you kept up with written expectations for your staff? With and because of change, training may be needed, for which Job Descriptions can be used as guidelines for.

Also, as mentioned earlier, pay transparency in some states must be tied to Job Descriptions which extends past the hiring process and into on-the-job compensation management. As a business owner and leader, I can say without hesitation that publicly known broad pay ranges, listed Job Descriptions makes compensation decisions making organized, fair and easier.

4. Following the Law (Compliance):

Trying to stay compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Job Descriptions, that include physical requirements based on the primary duties, come to the rescue when candidates or employees request reasonable accommodation in order to successfully perform their job by giving you physical guidelines by which to evaluate someone’s restrictions.

Trying to classify positions correctly under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)? Exempt vs. Non-Exempt? Whether someone is entitled to overtime or not STARTS with evaluating their job duties against Fact Sheets. Duties, first and Salary is the 2nd. Without a Job Description, it may be next to impossible to determine with confidence if you are paying employees correctly; leaving you vulnerable to losing a wage & hour charge from the Department of Labor.

Now that we have gone a year under a new salary threshold for exempt employees, be sure your employees are in agreement they are being paid according to the law. If they are not, and are disgruntled, the Department of Labor would be more than happy to hear from them and potentially investigate (aka audit).

5. Post-Employment:

Lastly, Job Descriptions and Employee Handbooks together may be the difference between winning or losing an unemployment claim. Have you ever terminated an employee for unacceptable performance and then they turn around and win their unemployment claim? Do you wonder why that happens?

States that frequently award unemployment for poor performance will tell you that the business contesting the claim failed to:

  1. Prove that they hired an employee with a reasonable chance to succeed in the role, and

  2. Prove that the termination decision was well within the employee’s control, and

  3. That the employee had clear expectations and opportunities to improve that they willingly failed to meet.

If you want to win the charge, or at least have a fighting chance, you need a detailed Job Description, documented corrective feedback, and clear policies in place for each position within your organization.

With the high level of unemployment thanks to COVID-19, you need every tool you’ve got to keep your business expenses down.

For advice on this matter or to solve any other HR challenge or concerns your small business is facing we look forward to learning more and providing assistance!

This article does not constitute legal advice and there are subtle variations in employment law as it pertains to this topic, depending on where your business operates. It is strongly suggested that you seek consultation or legal counsel before making decisions about policies.


Mindy Flanigan has 25+ years of experience as a Human Resource Management Professional. She is the Founder and CIO (Chief Inspiration Officer) of Inspiring HR, LLC, as well as PHR certified since 2002 and SHRM certified since 2015. To contact Mindy directly, please email her at


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