Job Descriptions tutorial – ERIC’s Business Insider

Over the past 20 years working in Dubai and in the Gulf region, I found out that the main challenges companies face today is by being at time unclear about their employees’ job responsibilities and objectives, what is expected from them, which may lead to confusion in what needs to be achieved by the job holder. Jobs might be duplicated, where two employees would perform the same task. In terms of performance appraisal: they might have no benchmark to assess people against, and a lack of methodology or references to evaluate the employee capability and knowledge level to execute a task. As a result, employees with low competency and skills levels will rarely or never be offered to be trained to enhance them, which will result in poor individual, departmental and company-wide performance. Furthermore, companies having no or poor HR systems may give no or little visibility toward individuals’ career development, which may translate in demotivated staff, high employee attrition rate, and poor talents retention.

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT – Accountabilities and Competences assessment

Job Descriptions are essential operational tools which are at the origin of any Performance Management systems. If well composed and implemented in the day-to-day life of an enterprise, they shall drastically improve individual and collective efficiency levels, but also improve employee utilization.

This optimization of the company human capabilities and resources will ultimately increase end-product or services quality, speed of delivery and efficiency, which translates into costs reduction.

A Human Resources department able to manage this process would have turned the page of being a simple operational support to become a sound strategic business partner.

Now, the real question is how the manpower utilisation can be optimised to increase companies’ overall performance and return on human capital investment ?

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT a 360-degree approach

At Hafner Consultants, we always consider Performance Management with a 360-degree approach.

As you can see in the employee life-cycle as seen herein, the competencies and role clarity, as well as the performance management are key stakeholders, but also form the fundamental contents of a job description.

(To learn more about Performance Management please do not miss our Hafner Consultants’ tutorial dedicated to the subject)

The job description is a mean to translate the cascading of the group or company goals into individual objectives. The JD is neither more nor less a synthesis of high level goals and business visions into approachable and easy to read individual requirements that aim to meet collective objectives.

ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT – the foundation for Performance Management

The key science behind organizational optimization is about turning the organization’s structure into detailed and individualized job descriptions.

Such job descriptions shall be meeting business needs. In other terms, each process step in a business process must be the direct outcome of one job description accountability, responsibility or task.

As a second step and after identification of the competencies and capabilities required by the business, the latest are segregated into functions and departments assimilated as Organizational Design.

Once the organizational charts are finalized and organized by function, then Job Descriptions will be designed and completed with the objectives cascaded down from the top which will be individualized into job accountabilities, and competencies, knowledges and skills as just explained in this workflow.

Well established Job Descriptions will therefore become the central piece of reference, the most strategic and useful tool to manage any organizations. Every HR initiative will constantly converge towards the job descriptions as the only point of reference and key indicator.

As you can see in this slide, Recruitment (commonly called: Talent Acquisition), is done using the competencies required for the job. In most cases, companies are lucky to recruit employees possessing 70% of the competencies and skills required for a certain job. Therefore, the balance 30% must be compensated by individualized Learning & Development plans, to bridge those gaps identified during regular Training Need Analysis sessions.

The job analysis is no more no less but the identification and understanding of the competencies to be mobilized, and available competencies in the business today. The gap in between the required and existing competencies will lead to an action plan for the management to later decide whether missing competencies should be bridged with: 1. external recruitment, 2. internal training and development, or 3. collective restructuring such as: new distribution of activities, tasks enrichment, sub-contracting, etc.

JOB DESCRIPTION DESIGN – Job accountabilities

Without getting into the details of writing job description content, which is not the purpose of our Tutorial of today, I would like to highlight its two most important contents:

  1. The job accountabilities, and
  2. The Job competencies.

First, every job in an organization should have some responsibilities, called also accountabilities. The goal here is to place the job holder (the employee) accountable to deliver and certain work. In other terms, would a job have no or little accountabilities, then its reason of existing might be reconsidered.

Second, Job accountabilities in today’s modern organizations replaced antiquated and overwhelmed task lists. Even today it is very frequent to find organizations in the U.A.E. and in the G.C.C. with long and stretched list of “to-do” tasks in their job descriptions, vaguely called “job functions”, “tasks”, “Main responsibilities”, or “duties”. At Hafner Consultants, we believe that this old system must give place to more focused and concise Accountabilities that will be perceived as a delegation of authority by the employee, and empower him to become more accountable for his deliverables. Additionally, this will develop his sense of creativity, instead of just being dictated detailed number of tasks framed in a small box.

Third, accountabilities and responsibilities listed in the job description are not SMART objectives yet, but will be very soon turned into Key Performance Indicators to be included as part of the company Performance Management System. In short, it will become very easy to translate each accountability into a SMART key performance indicator. SMART stands for: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

COMPETENCIES ASSESSMENT – a guide to assess competencies

Assessing competence in the workplace is necessary to ensure that staff are both confident and competent in their work. Individuals are considered competent when they can consistently apply their knowledge and skills to the standard of performance required in the workplace.

At Hafner Consultants, our assessment process allows us to collect evidence and make judgements on whether competence has been achieved. This confirms that an individual can perform to the standard expected in the workplace, in line with the competency framework.

There are three types of evidence:

  1. direct, such as observation of workplace performance, or
  2. indirect, under the form of formal testing, or
  3. supplementary through third party, as testimonies from others.

Formal training sessions, whether classroom based or e-learning, can provide the underpinning knowledge to inform practice. However, they do not provide evidence of competence, unless there is some formal testing.

Individuals should be deemed competent when they can relate theory to practice, in their everyday practice.

COMPETENCIES ASSESSMENT – Competences & Skills assessment

  • At Hafner Consultants we have developed a competency assessment process and tool that defines 5 competency levels, depending on the job level of expertise requirements
  • Competencies are segregated into three frameworks, which are: Leadership, Core and Functional
  • Accordingly, competencies and skills are identified for each role, and required levels are set according to the expected expertise level (1 to 5)
  • During periodic reviews, the assessment of the job holder’s “Actual” level is benchmarked towards the job “Required” level
  • A competency gaps analysis is done to identify the Training Needs
  • Finally, this exercise allows to define an employee overall percentage of competency level for a certain job. For example, on this table, it show that the employee is competent at a level of 66% in his job. This means that the 34% of competencies, skills or knowledge missing will need to be compensated with some specific training.
  • Additionally, our tool can also provide a “job competency rating” for every jobs in a company, which rating will become necessary to proceed with Job Evaluation, since Competency and Knowledge levels are key Evaluation Factors, and part of our Job Evaluation process.

(To learn more about Job Evaluation, please do not miss our Hafner Consultants’ tutorial dedicated to the subject)

Once the competencies mapping is finalized, the same is added to the respective job description.



Our Tutorial on the Job Descriptions, their purpose and strategic impact on the company, comes to an end. I hope you enjoyed it !
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