A job description may seem like just so many words on a page or website. But those words have power. They can either set an employer and employee on a path toward a positive, fruitful relationship or on a downward spiral into confusion and conflict. To keep your organization on the road to success, review and, if necessary, revise your job descriptions regularly.

Clarity and comprehensiveness

Job duties often evolve over time in response to changes in an organization’s product or service line, staffing level, or technology. Unfortunately, job descriptions don’t always evolve along with them.

A good job description has two primary characteristics: clarity and comprehensiveness. The clearer the job description, the easier it is to:

  • Identify the right candidates,
  • Ask good questions during interviews,
  • Train new hires, and
  • Hold employees accountable for specific performance metrics.

If a job description is vague, incomplete or misleading, it will likely create problems at one or more of these stages.

Comprehensiveness is also important. A job description must fully detail what the position requires of the employee. Imagine being hired for a job — or already working at one — only to learn that you’re responsible for much more than you’ve been led to believe. Some employees may rise to the occasion, but others may give up quickly (increasing turnover) or soldier on resentfully.

A team effort

So, the question is, who should handle regular updates to written job descriptions? One common response is, “That’s HR’s job.” This is true in a big-picture sense — your HR department or provider should approve and retain job descriptions. But it’s a good idea for supervisors to perform the “nuts and bolts” revisions to each position, ideally in consultation with the employee doing the work.

In fact, a best practice to consider is incorporating job description revisions into annual performance evaluations. Upon completing the process, including setting objectives for the next review period, the supervisor should update the job description in question as necessary. The changes should then go to upper management and HR for further approval.

Whenever necessary

Experts generally agree that employers should review and revise their job descriptions at least once a year. That’s why adding this step to your performance evaluation process makes sense. But don’t rely solely on this approach. Be prepared to update a job description whenever the need arises. Contact us for help ascertaining the costs and assessing the viability of improvements to your hiring and performance management processes.


We highly recommend you confer with your Miller Kaplan advisor to understand your specific situation and how this impacts you.