Job Descriptions: Compliance Requirement or a Strategic Tool?

Shalom Orlian
July 13, 2023
minute read

A well-crafted job description is more than just a recruitment tool; it is a key element in retaining and developing your employees. In this blog post, we’ll look at the role that job descriptions play in ensuring legal defensibility, facilitating effective onboarding, and fostering a culture of accountability within your organization.

Failed Promotion

Let's look at a real-life scenario. Steve, an exemplary employee, started in accounting but soon established strong relationships with colleagues in other departments, offering valuable assistance with their challenges. Recognizing his contributions, the company created a new project manager role for him and rewarded him with a significant raise. However, a few months later, his performance declined, and employees noticed a drop in productivity. The underlying issue became clear during a conversation - Steve was never provided with a clear job description for his new role, leaving him struggling to prioritize tasks, decline excessive requests, and causing overall frustration.

Job descriptions play a much broader role than just helping your employees understand their job.

Legal Defensibility

Job descriptions must stand up in a court of law by clearly outlining the main responsibilities and relevant requirements for each position. This helps prevents lawsuits related to hiring or promotion practices. It is crucial to avoid irrelevant criteria in any job description like age or gender. If a lawsuit is opened, in most cases, these requirements will not hold up in court.

By ensuring compliance and adhering to legal standards in job descriptions, organizations can mitigate legal risks.

Strategic Onboarding

Effective onboarding is vital for new employees to acclimate quickly and become productive team members. New hires often struggle to grasp their roles and responsibilities, hindering their relationship with managers and creating confusion. Strategically used job descriptions enhance the onboarding process in several ways:

  1. Aligning expectations: Clear job descriptions establish expectations, ensuring a smooth transition and promoting job satisfaction.
  2. Training and development: Job descriptions serve as roadmaps, identifying skill gaps and accelerating the new hire's growth and development.
  3. Cultivating a supportive culture: Well-defined job descriptions demonstrate a culture of respect and support to new employees.


Performance and Accountability

An effective job description serves as a benchmark for performance evaluation and accountability. When employees have a clear understanding of their responsibilities outlined in the job description, it becomes easier to evaluate their performance objectively and provide constructive feedback. This creates consistency and fairness, and reduces the likelihood of performance-related disputes leading to lawsuits.

This issue recently came up with a client:

An employee received a new role without a job description. She recognized the potential challenges of getting acclimated and the impact on her performance evaluation. To address the issue, she proactively requested a detailed job description. A clear effective job description was created jointly with input from both her and her manager. This initiative ensured clarity, accountability, and set her up for success in her new position.

Creating Effective Job Descriptions

To create legal and effective job descriptions, follow these guidelines:

1) Use clear and concise language: Avoid jargon and ambiguity, ensuring job applicants and employees understand the job requirements.

2) Focus on outcomes and impact: Emphasize the desired contributions and value the role brings to the organization.

3) Include relevant requirements: Ensure all listed requirements and knowledge are pertinent to the job's responsibilities.

4) Regularly update and validate: Job descriptions should evolve with the organization's changing needs. regular reviews and input from employeesand managers help maintain accuracy and relevance.


Job descriptions are tools that offer value far beyond outlining job responsibilities. By ensuring legal defensibility, facilitating strategic onboarding, and fostering a culture of accountability, organizations retain and develop their employees while minimizing legal risks. Investing time and effort into creating robust job descriptions will yield significant returns in terms of legal compliance, employee engagement, and overall organizational success.

>HR insights from Shalom Orlian from Strategy HR.

Shalom holds a Master's in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and has extensive experience working in HR at global companies leading talent, leadership, and culture initiatives.  He is the co-founder and principal consultant for Strategy HR Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in talent development, company culture, and strategic HR management. His expertise and passion for creating positive change makes him a trusted advisor to business leaders in optimizing employee engagement and organizational performance.