How to Design a New Job — a New Position or Role (Job Descriptions)
Sections of This Topic Include
- How to Clearly Define a New Job
- How to Develop Useful Job Descriptions
- Additional Perspectives on Defining New Jobs and Roles and Job Descriptions
Related Library Topics
(Before reading this topic, be sure to read the definitions and various steps in the staffing process to notice where this topic fits in the overall process.)
How to Clearly Define a New Job
© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD
Ultimately, you’re aiming to develop a job description for the new role. However, rather than looking at a variety of sample job descriptions now, it’s much more useful to carefully think about what you want in the role, rather than what others suggest in their job descriptions.
1. First, try think of the knowledge, skills and/or abilities (competencies) that might be useful for someone to have in the job. Think about the results of your previous staffing planning.
2. Consider interviewing someone — in or outside of your company — who already has some of those competencies. Share your staffing plan. Ask them to suggest competencies.
3. Observe an employee or employees in similar jobs as they as the perform a task or conduct the role. What areas of knowledge do you see the employees using? What skills do you see the employees performing?
4. Consider administering a questionnaire to the employee or employees. On the questionnaire, ask them to describe certain practices and procedures to carry out the task or perform the role in the best way possible. Explain that the questionnaire is to help the trainer help the employees to perform a task or conduct a role better.
5. Ideally, get advice from customers about what knowledge and skills are useful in delivering the best quality products or services to them.
6. A generic list of competencies may already exist for a role. For example, professional associations sometimes provide generic lists.
(As with job descriptions, there are those who have strong cautions about the use of competencies. Some experts assert that competencies should define the abilities for someone to excel in a certain role, that is, meet high performance standards, whereas other experts assert that competencies should define the abilities to adequately perform in the role.)
How to Develop Useful Job Descriptions
© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD
(Be sure to see all the steps in the Staffing process and where this step fits in the process)
1. Draft a preliminary job description.
Draft a job description which specifies the general responsibilities of the new position along with some of the specific duties to be conducted by the role, the title for the position, and any special skills, training or credentials required.
Do not merely seek job descriptions from other organizations and adopt those as is. Your open position is unique and job descriptions are very important so you should develop your own – the process of completing the job description is usually quite enlightening.
- Note which job activities are essential and which are non-essential.
- Add whom the position reports to and whether the position is full-time or part-time.
- Consider if the position requires any special physical skills. This may be important when considering accommodations to candidates with physical disabilities and effects. Various government agencies have employment laws in this regard, for example, in the USA, the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- If the position must be filled by a paid employee (see the next paragraph to consider if a consultant is more appropriate), consider if the position is salaried or hourly. Usually, highly skilled and/or professional roles are salaried, while entry-level positions are hourly.
- Invite employees to review and edit the drafted job description.
- Consider including a six-month probationary period for the new position and if you do so, be sure to update your personnel policies to describe your organization’s use of the probationary conditions. A probationary period allows you to fire an employee during the six months if you have concerns and greatly decreases the chances you will be sued for wrongful termination.
2. For nonprofits: Would a volunteer be most appropriate to fill the role?
Consider filling the position with a volunteer if the job involves activities that are:
- Fairly routine
- Not necessarily time-critical (that is, must be done by a certain deadline)
- Volunteers are also useful when there simply is no money to pay someone to do the job.
3. Would a consultant (independent contractor) be most appropriate?
At this point, consider if a consultant might fill the new position. For example, it is common for small- to medium-sized organizations to hire accountants as consultants. Generally, if the activities associated with your new role require any of the following, then consider hiring a consultant:
- Highly skilled personnel for a fixed and limited duration
- Unskilled personnel for a fixed and limited duration, but it is not likely that you can find a volunteer to fill the role
- A unique set of resources or tools that are not commonly available and would come with a professional (for example, a graphics designer)
- Note that the consideration whether to hire an employee or an independent contractor is a very serious one. If the wrong choice is made, then you may be assessed strong fees and penalties by the Internal Revenue Service in the USA.
4. Determine the approximate cost of the new role.
- Estimate the salary range for the new position. Set this range by talking to other organizations with similar product or services, or by scanning classified sections of newspapers with ads for similar roles. You can also reference various salary surveys.
- Finalize how much the position will cost the organization by adding “fringe” to the salary. Fringe includes costs of benefits planned for the new role, including health and dental and life insurance, and retirement benefits, along with Workers Compensation and any pension plans. Note that, depending on the state in which you live, you may be required to pay certain employment taxes for part-time people, often if they are at or over half-time. For planning purposes, fringe might be estimated at 40% of the salary.
- Additional costs of the position result from training, equipment, rental of space, postage, copying, etc. You should develop a compensation program, with policies that outline the procedure for determination of salary and benefits.
5. Get feedback and authorization from the Board, in the case of corporations.
The Chief Executive Officer may want to work with the Board Chair to prepare for communication of the new job to the Board. Propose the new position to the Board by attaching a proposal letter to the drafted job description along with description of how the position will be funded and sending it to all Board members for their review before the next Board meeting. At the next Board meeting, invite open discussion and questions about the new role. Seek their authorization for the new position.
6. Finalize the job description.
Update the job description with relevant feedback from others. It is important that the job description be as accurate as possible because it is the basis for determining compensation, conveying the role to the new employee and conducting regular performance appraisals. Be sure to note the version of the job description by including the date on the bottom. The job description should be reviewed and updated annually, usually by the employee and supervisor during the performance review cycle.
Reference some of the Additional Perspectives on Defining New Jobs and Roles and Job Descriptions.
Then return to Staffing for the next step in the staffing process.
Additional Perspectives on Defining New Jobs and Roles and Job Descriptions
- Basics, Terms and Definitions (and Misconceptions) About Management
- Basic Terms in Training and Development
- Glossary of HR Terms
- Job, Role, Competency and Skills Analysis
- Resources for Work Design (Job Design, Task Design)
- Job Analysis: An Overview
- Job Analysis and links
- Wageweb Job Descriptions
- Standard Industrial Classifications (SIC) Index
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management General Schedule Position Classification Standards
- Job description samples, templates, profiles, duties, responsibilities and job specifications
- Sample Job Descriptions
- Job Analysis & Design, Recruitment, Selection, Outsourcing
- Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill
- Standard Industrial Classifications (SIC) Index
Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Defining a Job and Job Descriptions
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