Defining New Jobs and Roles

Sections of this topic

    How to Design a New Job — a New Position or Role (Job Descriptions)

    Sections of This Topic Include

    How to Clearly Define a New Job
    How to Develop Useful Job Descriptions
    Additional Perspectives on Defining New Jobs and Roles
    and Job Descriptions

    Also consider
    Related Library Topics

    (Before reading this topic, be sure to read the definitions and various steps
    in the staffing process
    to notice where this topic fits in the overall process.)

    How to Clearly Define a New Job

    © Copyright Carter McNamara,
    MBA, PhD

    Ultimately, you’re aiming to develop a job description for the new role. However,
    rather than looking at a variety of sample job descriptions now, it’s much more
    useful to carefully think about what you want in the role, rather than what
    others suggest in their job descriptions.

    1. First, try think of the knowledge, skills and/or abilities (competencies)
    that might be useful for someone to have in the job. Think about the results
    of your previous staffing planning.

    2. Consider interviewing someone — in or outside of your company — who already
    has some of those competencies. Share your staffing plan. Ask them to suggest

    3. Observe an employee or employees in similar jobs as they as the perform
    a task or conduct the role. What areas of knowledge do you see the employees
    using? What skills do you see the employees performing?

    4. Consider administering a questionnaire to the employee or employees. On
    the questionnaire, ask them to describe certain practices and procedures to
    carry out the task or perform the role in the best way possible. Explain that
    the questionnaire is to help the trainer help the employees to perform a task
    or conduct a role better.

    5. Ideally, get advice from customers about what knowledge and skills are useful
    in delivering the best quality products or services to them.

    6. A generic list of competencies may already exist for a role. For example,
    professional associations sometimes provide generic lists.

    (As with job descriptions, there are those who have strong cautions about the
    use of competencies. Some experts assert that competencies should define the
    abilities for someone to excel in a certain role, that is, meet high performance
    standards, whereas other experts assert that competencies should define the
    abilities to adequately perform in the role.)

    How to Develop Useful Job Descriptions

    © Copyright Carter McNamara,
    MBA, PhD

    (Be sure to see all the steps in the Staffing
    process and where this step fits in the process)

    1. Draft a preliminary job description.

    Draft a job description which specifies the general responsibilities of the
    new position along with some of the specific duties to be conducted by the role,
    the title for the position, and any special skills, training or credentials

    Do not merely seek job descriptions from other organizations and adopt those
    as is. Your open position is unique and job descriptions are very important
    so you should develop your own – the process of completing the job description
    is usually quite enlightening.

    1. Note which job activities are essential and which are non-essential.
    2. Add whom the position reports to and whether the position is full-time or
    3. Consider if the position requires any special physical skills. This may
      be important when considering accommodations to candidates with physical disabilities
      and effects. Various government agencies have employment laws in this regard,
      for example, in the USA, the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    4. If the position must be filled by a paid employee (see the next paragraph
      to consider if a consultant is more appropriate), consider if the position
      is salaried or hourly. Usually, highly skilled and/or professional roles are
      salaried, while entry-level positions are hourly.
    5. Invite employees to review and edit the drafted job description.
    6. Consider including a six-month probationary period for the new position
      and if you do so, be sure to update your personnel policies to describe your
      organization’s use of the probationary conditions. A probationary period allows
      you to fire an employee during the six months if you have concerns and greatly
      decreases the chances you will be sued for wrongful termination.

    2. For nonprofits: Would a volunteer be most appropriate to fill the role?

    Consider filling the position with a volunteer if the job involves activities
    that are:

    • Fairly routine
    • Unskilled
    • Not necessarily time-critical (that is, must be done by a certain deadline)
    • Volunteers are also useful when there simply is no money to pay someone
      to do the job.

    3. Would a consultant (independent contractor) be most appropriate?

    At this point, consider if a consultant might fill the new position. For example,
    it is common for small- to medium-sized organizations to hire accountants as
    consultants. Generally, if the activities associated with your new role require
    any of the following, then consider hiring a consultant:

    • Highly skilled personnel for a fixed and limited duration
    • Unskilled personnel for a fixed and limited duration, but it is not likely
      that you can find a volunteer to fill the role
    • A unique set of resources or tools that are not commonly available and
      would come with a professional (for example, a graphics designer)
    • Note that the consideration whether to hire an employee or an independent
      contractor is a very serious one. If the wrong choice is made, then you may
      be assessed strong fees and penalties by the Internal Revenue Service in the

    4. Determine the approximate cost of the new role.

    • Estimate the salary range for the new position. Set this range by talking
      to other organizations with similar product or services, or by scanning classified
      sections of newspapers with ads for similar roles. You can also reference
      various salary surveys.
    • Finalize how much the position will cost the organization by adding “fringe”
      to the salary. Fringe includes costs of benefits planned for the new role,
      including health and dental and life insurance, and retirement benefits, along
      with Workers Compensation and any pension plans. Note that, depending on the
      state in which you live, you may be required to pay certain employment taxes
      for part-time people, often if they are at or over half-time. For planning
      purposes, fringe might be estimated at 40% of the salary.
    • Additional costs of the position result from training, equipment, rental
      of space, postage, copying, etc. You should develop a compensation program,
      with policies that outline the procedure for determination of salary and benefits.

    5. Get feedback and authorization from the Board, in the case of corporations.

    The Chief Executive Officer may want to work with the Board Chair to prepare
    for communication of the new job to the Board. Propose the new position to the
    Board by attaching a proposal letter to the drafted job description along with
    description of how the position will be funded and sending it to all Board members
    for their review before the next Board meeting. At the next Board meeting, invite
    open discussion and questions about the new role. Seek their authorization for
    the new position.

    6. Finalize the job description.

    Update the job description with relevant feedback from others. It is important
    that the job description be as accurate as possible because it is the basis
    for determining compensation, conveying the role to the new employee and conducting
    regular performance appraisals. Be sure to note the version of the job description
    by including the date on the bottom. The job description should be reviewed
    and updated annually, usually by the employee and supervisor during the performance
    review cycle.

    Reference some of the Additional Perspectives on Defining
    New Jobs and Roles and Job Descriptions

    Then return to Staffing
    for the next step in the staffing process.

    Additional Perspectives on Defining New Jobs and Roles and Job Descriptions

    Basics, Terms and
    Definitions (and Misconceptions) About Management
    Terms in Training and Development
    of HR Terms
    Role, Competency and Skills Analysis

    Resources for
    Work Design (Job Design, Task Design)
    Job Analysis:
    An Overview

    Job Analysis and links

    Wageweb Job Descriptions
    Standard Industrial Classifications (SIC) Index
    U.S. Office of Personnel Management General Schedule Position
    Classification Standards

    Job description samples, templates, profiles, duties, responsibilities
    and job specifications

    Sample Job Descriptions
    Job Analysis & Design, Recruitment, Selection, Outsourcing

    Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill
    Standard Industrial
    Classifications (SIC) Index

    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Defining a Job and Job Descriptions

    In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which
    have posts related to Designing a Job and Job Descriptions. Scan down the blog’s
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    Human Resources Blog

    Leadership Blog

    Supervision Blog

    For the Category of Human Resources:

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