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Job descriptions: The building block of organizations

Richard Stup Published on 02 February 2011

The primary objective of a job description is to help employees and supervisors reach a mutual understanding about important details of a job in order to avoid future problems.

This article discusses the need for job descriptions, how to prepare them, and how to make use of them for more effective human resource management.

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In addition, some examples of job descriptions for positions in the milking center are included. Job descriptions should never be considered final; they should be open to changes and should be reviewed at least once per year by both employee and supervisor.

Reasons for job descriptions
There are many reasons for using good job descriptions – some of the most important include the following:

• Organization. The job description helps people understand their responsibilities and how their work contributes to the overall mission of the business.

• Training. It serves as a useful tool for training purposes because it lists the specific tasks that make up the job.

• Recruitment. Clear job descriptions promote an understanding between the employer and the prospective employee. You are more likely to hire the right person if both of you clearly understand the job.

• Evaluation. Employer and employee can compare actual job performance to the expectations outlined in the job description. This helps you recognize a job well done or a need for retraining or discipline.

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• Defense. In the unfortunate event that you must terminate an employee for poor performance, the job description gives you a basis for defending your decision.

Preparing job descriptions
Job descriptions are really not difficult to write. The best way to begin is by writing your own. This will get you thinking about your responsibilities and how you fit into the organization. It will also help you prepare for questions your employees might have.

Next, take some time to sit down with your current employees and help them to begin writing their job descriptions.

Make sure you explain why you need to develop job descriptions and how you expect employees to benefit from them as well. Your employees might have ideas about parts of their jobs that you might not have thought to include.

Finally, you will need to review and make changes to the job descriptions. For new positions, you will need to write the job description from scratch.

Generally, keep descriptions brief and to the point, but don’t leave out important information. Most job descriptions should easily fit on one page. Your goal is to provide a clear picture of the job so that you and your employee will fully understand each other’s expectations.

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A good job description will include the following:

1. Job title. The job title should accurately describe the job. For example, do not call a job that involves only milking a herdsman position.

2. Summary. This is a concise definition of the job’s major responsibilities, where it is performed and when it is performed. You might use the summary when advertising the position.

3. Qualifications. A description of any experience, training or education necessary to perform the job. Also, any physical characteristics essential to perform the job, such as the ability to lift and carry a certain weight.

Be sure to avoid statements that might be discriminatory on grounds of race, gender, age or national origin. Be aware that there are some jobs young people are not legally allowed to do.

4. Duties or tasks. This is the list of all activities the person will perform. The number of different duties depends on how specialized workers’ roles are on the farm.

Most employers add at the end of the list “other duties as assigned by supervisor” as a way of including those activities that are not routine. It may be helpful to include the approximate percentage of the worker’s time each duty will require.

5. Work relationships. All workers need to know where they fit in the organization. The work relationship section should clearly define who the worker’s supervisor is and how the worker’s position relates to other positions.

Be sure each position only has one supervisor. Job descriptions relate to the staff organization chart – each position that appears on the organization chart should have a job description associated with it.

The following two categories are optional. If you use them, don’t be so specific that no changes can be made in the future.

6. Compensation and benefits. Include in this section all compensation offered. An hourly wage range, insurance, vacation, sick leave and so on should be clearly stated.

Housing, use of farm products such as milk or meat, use of equipment, and so forth are all legitimate forms of compensation and should be given a fair market value. You should also specify how much these nonmonetary benefits may be used so that there is less chance of abuse.

7. Work schedule. Define work hours as much as possible. Define overtime policy if one applies. If work hours vary with the seasons, make that clear in the description.

Putting job descriptions to work
Job descriptions are an essential part of the employee recruitment process. In today’s competitive labor market, dairy farms need to communicate the image of a well-managed and organized business.

Well-constructed job descriptions show that management is aware of specific labor needs and the qualifications and skills a successful candidate will possess. Job descriptions spell out the specific duties required of employees and help candidates decide if the job will be a good fit for them.

Job descriptions help the dairy manager make effective selections. With the required qualifications and duties clearly specified in the job description, managers can more objectively select candidates based on their potential for job success, rather than on personality traits.

Once a candidate is selected, the job description serves as a guide to the skills and knowledge the new employee will need to perform the job. Those skills the employee already possesses should be refined and applied in the new position, while skills or knowledge the employee lacks can be acquired through training. PD

Richard Stup

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