If Your Organization Hires Contract Employees or Freelancers, Job Descriptions Are Essential. Here’s Why:
I remember over two decades ago, when a well-renowned I/O Psychologist stated that job descriptions would become a thing of the past and a person’s function within an organization would be ever-evolving, requiring employees to recreate their value periodically.
He compared the need for job functions to that of making a film. Candidates would be similar to actors auditioning for a role in a movie. Business would become more project-oriented and when the project was complete, employees would be out of a job until they were hired for the next project.
And I believe we have seen this come to fruition with technology-related contractual organizations.
Why You Need Job Descriptions for Contract Employees and Freelancers
But, to hire an (contractual) employee still takes a job description. And why is that so? Because job descriptions are not simply used to hire a candidate that best fits the needs for the desired role. Job descriptions are also used to design training programs for the role because no one person can fit the role with 100% of the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for that role.
Second, job descriptions are used to benchmark the incumbent’s performance against the expected proficiencies of the job which then results in providing ongoing feedback to the incumbent followed by the more formal annual performance review.
And last, when an incumbent’s performance does not meet the expectations of the job description, the job description is relied upon to substantiate the corrective action process, termination, denial of unemployment and/or any other legal claims made by the terminated employee.
What Do Job Descriptions for Contract Employees and Freelancers Include?
Job descriptions are foundational to a business’s federal and state legal requirement to have objective and fair hiring and performance-based practices. And in order to be compliant with federal and state labor practices, a job description should include the following data:
- Job title—name of the position.
- Classification—exempt or nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
- Salary grade/level/family/range—compensation levels, groups or pay ranges into which jobs of the same or similar worth are placed, including minimum and maximum pay bands.
- Reports to—title of the position this job reports to.
- Date—date when the job description was written or last reviewed.
- Summary/objective—summary and overall objectives of the job.
- Essential functions—essential functions, including how an individual is to perform them and the frequency with which the tasks are performed; the tasks must be part of the job function and truly necessary or required to perform the job.
- Competency—knowledge, skills and abilities.
- Supervisory responsibilities (if needed)—direct reports, if any, and the level of supervision.
- Work environment—the work environment; temperature, noise level, inside or outside, or other factors that will affect the person’s working conditions while performing the job.
- Physical demands—the physical demands of the job, including bending, sitting, lifting and driving.
- Position type and expected hours of work—full time or part time, typical work hours and shifts, days of week, and whether overtime is expected.
- Travel—percentage of travel time expected for the position, where the travel occurs, such as locally or in specific countries or states, and whether the travel is overnight.
- Required education and experience—education and experience based on requirements that are job-related and consistent with business necessity.
- Preferred education and experience—preferred education and experience based on requirements that are job-related and consistent with business necessity.
- Additional eligibility qualifications—additional requirements such as certifications, industry-specific experience and the experience working with certain equipment.
- Affirmative action plan/equal employment opportunity (AAP/EEO) statement—clause(s) that outlines federal contractor requirements and practices and/or equal employer opportunity statement.
- Other duties—disclaimer. It’s a good idea to add a statement that indicates that the job description is not designed to cover or contain a comprehensive listing of activities, duties or responsibilities that are required of the employee and can change as the need arises. So the disclaimer may state: “And any other duties and responsibilities as required.”
To be able to create a reliable job description that depicts the above mentioned items, you will need to conduct a job analysis. Conducting a job analysis involves gathering data about the job’s tasks.
You’ll need to interview subject matter experts (SMEs) such as the hiring manager(s) and job incumbents to find out exactly what tasks are being performed and observe how these tasks are performed.
You can also create and have SMEs fill out questionnaires as a result of the interviews and observations to further validate the accuracy of job functions.
Once the performance standard for the job has been made, essential functions of the position must be defined. Defining the essential functions includes:
- Ensure the tasks are truly necessary or a requirement to perform the job.
- Determine the frequency at which the task is performed or how much time is spent performing a task.
- Determine the consequences of not performing the function and whether this would be detrimental to the employer’s operation or result in severe consequences.
- Determine if the tasks can be redesigned or performed in another manner.
- Determine if the tasks can be reassigned to another employee.
Essential Vs. Marginal Functions
Once the essential functions are defined, the employer can make a determination as to whether the functions are essential or marginal.
The use of the term “essential function” should be part of the job description, and it should explicitly state how an individual is to perform the job. This will provide future guidance as to whether the job can be performed with or without an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation.
Finally, the layout of the job description looks a bit different from employer-to-employer, but as long as you conduct an objective job analysis, include the above mentioned job function items, conduct your essential function analysis, plus make the format consistent across all roles, you now have a document that you can rely upon to make major employment decisions with confidence.
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