Formal job descriptions serve as a guide in hiring and supervising employees. They are usually detailed descriptions of what will be expected of the employees once they are hired to take up a particular position. Job descriptions are used to guide the HR department in the administration of salary, performance appraisal, coaching and ensure legal compliance. (Mark, 2002) They also deal with accountabilities and work flow and serve as a source of information regarding the direction which the company will follow. All decisions regarding the employment, legal foundation and business needs of a particular employee are listed down on it.
However, with time these job descriptions are gradually becoming irrelevant and a number of companies have begun to change their company strategy to incorporate ideas which can keep up with the present technologies. This is due to the fact that job descriptions can not be relied on wholly to increase the company’s profitability. (Peter, 2004) Why Written Formal Job Descriptions are Unnecessary Formal job descriptions are unnecessary, bureaucratic and restrict the flexibility and discretion of both HR specialists and line managers.
Formal job descriptions are not based on the best job fit for employee’s competencies. As such, the capabilities of the employees are not fully utilized. Limiting employee’s work based on a job description fails to make use of the talents possessed by a certain employee and discourages flexibilities. This is called systematic management which was advanced by Adam Smith. This kind systematic way of management is concerned more with goals than with people thus leading to widespread inefficiency. Job descriptions do not focus on the needs of employees but the overall organizational goals.
(Jackdoff, 2000) Max Weber was a major contributor to bureaucracy and believed bureaucratic structures could assist in eliminating variability in results when managers in the same organizations had different experiences, skills and goals. He thus recommended that the rules needed to be standardized to prevent personnel changes from disrupting the organization. He therefore proposed a structured and network of relationship which was formal in nature among other specialized positions within organizations.
Rules and regulations, authority and standardized behavior resided not in individuals but positions. Consequently, organizations should not rely on written formal job descriptions but success and efficiency can only be realized by following regulations in an unbiased manner and routinely and eliminating rigid standards which may interfere with productivity. (Maslow, 2003) Bureaucratic procedures like the ones involved in writing a job description usually foster unnecessarily specialized knowledge and skills and thus eliminate numerous subjective judgments by company employees.
Formal job descriptions are bureaucratic in nature and thus not quite appropriate model in departments and organizations which are in need of flexibility and rapid decision making. Other shortcomings emanate from faulty implementation of bureaucratic principles as opposed to the approach itself. The procedures of designing job descriptions are therefore likely to become ends in themselves rather than means. In addition, such procedures are permanent and thus dismantling is quite hard and thus not very friendly to dynamic organizations. (Prister, 1990)
Formal job descriptions do not put into consideration the projects at hand which might require to be done by an employee who possesses certain skills. This is because there are some projects which need to be done by an employee even though they are not within his or her job description. Job descriptions therefore show a lack of willingness by an organization to align employee’s talents with best job fit. (Vale, 1999) Laughlin, states that work needs to be restructured according to the skills, talents, competencies and resources needed at a particular time to accomplish a given task.
This gives the line managers tremendous leverage to complete a given assignment. Unlike formal job descriptions which do not give an employee an opportunity to experiment with various tasks, assigning jobs according to skills and talents enhances creativity and more work is accomplished within a short time and consequently leads to organizational success. (Laughlin, 2000) Job descriptions are in most cases impractical and outdated since they do not put into consideration the changing nature of work force. They are normally designed around systems and processes. (Prister, 1990)
A formal job description which is less than 2 years old is likely to be phased out due to drastic changes in the work force. As a result, the whole job description may be irrelevant in achieving the set goals. The line mangers, HR specialists and the organizations may be at risk if the employees are not called to contribute to the company on the basis of its need at that time. Failure to do this normally prohibits employees from becoming productive and efficient. (Jason, 2004) Formal job descriptions fail to assess, identify and organize employees around the company’s top priorities or critical assignment that must be dealt with.
It prohibits shifting and rotating employees. Formal job descriptions employ a ‘one best way approach’ which is entrenched in the scientific management system founded by Frederick Taylor. This system discourages frequent review of company’s strategies. In addition, organizations, with strict formal job descriptions base the company’s goals and objectives on the job descriptions and as a result, the HR might justify failure to achieve some goals on lack of clear job descriptions. It is also vague to measure the employee’s performance based on the job description.
This is because formal job descriptions allow this kind of assessment to be done which fails to put into consideration other areas outside the job description that an employee has contributed in. (Borman, 2006) Formal job descriptions discourage teamwork, which is crucial in achieving organizational goals and objectives. Employees can refuse to participate in other areas outside their job descriptions which consequently slow down the success rate of a company. The employees can argue that the agreement assigned does not bind them to perform any task assigned to them.
This may lead to improper use of human resources available and conflict of interest. (Mary, 2003) Formal job descriptions may put an organization in a competitive disadvantage. The bureaucratic nature of the job descriptions consumes time which would have otherwise been channeled in other productive activities. Changing the contents requires time and proper consultations with line managers, HR specialists and the general managers and therefore, an organization is slow to embrace changes quickly as they present themselves. Valuable resources such as money get used up in the process which ends up being a wrong investment.
(Mark, 2002)This in most cases works against the organization’s strategies. Formal job descriptions bring about work monotony and therefore the projects intended to be carried out may be left out since there are no new challenges which motivate the employees. (Bateson, 2005) In addition, the contents of job descriptions tend to create the impression of hierarchy or unity of command with regard to different tasks that have assigned to different employees. As a result job descriptions can be used to intimidate some employees and especially the subordinate.
This is because some employees tend to view a detailed job description as a mark of superiority and thus feel more deserving than the rest of the employees. In other words, there is lack of unity of direction, one of the Henry Fayol’s principles of management. According to Fayol, the perspective of senior managers in a company or organization must be emphasized and in this case it may not. (Peter, 2004) Conclusion From the discussion above, it is clear that despite the gains that have been realized from formal written job descriptions, there are still irrelevant especially in a dynamic work force.
Line mangers and HR specialist need to cooperate with employees to make sure that job description matches principles and plans. (Maslow, 2003) Despite the fact that job descriptions have ensured smooth flow of activities and have made supervision easier and have also been used widely during performance appraisals, they need to be easily adjustable to accommodate urgent projects. They consume a lot of time when being designed and hold the employee’s captive of their tasks and thus their thinking is limited.Management should therefore develop a scientific approach for each element of employee’s work to replace the rule of thumb guidelines. (Lauglin, 2000)
References Bateson, C (2005) Measuring Performance: Motivation and Talents, Kingstone Press, Florida. Borman, V. (2006) Work Dynamics: Things to Watch, academic press, Penguin Island. Christian, P. (2000) Performance Appraisals and Job Descriptions, Winster Publishers, Chicago. Jackdoff, T. (2000) How to do Your Job, Preston Press, Washington, DC. Jason, S. (2004) The Weaknesses of a Job Description: New Approach, Trisex Press, UK.
Lauglin, S. (2000) Disadvantages of Job Descriptions, Fireside Publishers, Chicago. Mark, T. (2002) What is in a Job Description, Palgrave Publishers, New York. Mary, C. (2003) Definition of a Job Description, Academic Press, Washington DC. Maslow, S. (2003) The Dynamics of Organizational Change, Preston Publishers, New York. Peter, Z. (2004) Relevance of Job Descriptions, Palgrave Publishers. Prister, F. (1990) Do We Need Job Descriptions, Academic Press publishers, US. Vale, C. (1999) Human resource Management, Kings Publishers, US.