It's Not In My Job Description by Kelly Swingler

I wrote recently about handbooks and keeping them short and simple and this week it's job descriptions as some of our HR audits are uncovering some interesting stories here.

I've also believed that a job description/role profile or whatever you call it, is just that, a description, a bit like a trailer for a film or synopsis for a book - it will never cover everything but if you get the generalist gist of it then everyone knows what's expected and as roles evolve you can tweak a few things, but as they will never cover absolutely everything that is required in a role, keep them quite general.


One audit this week has uncovered an issue where 'specifics' found a retailer having to pay a significant claim for an employee. The employer in question had given a LOT of detail in their job descriptions relating to store employees and the need to serve customers and replenish stock. The employee had received a lot of training in health and safety including the use of ladders and been told the importance of how to use a ladder correctly and what the yellow date stickers are for and had signed their job description.

However, one day, the employee fell off a ladder, injured their ankle and made a claim against the employer, which they won.

How did they win?

Because the job description had been so detailed in every aspect of the role outlining many details of handling money, how to meet and greet customers, what to look for when hanging stock on the shop-floor, but the job description had not detailed that the use of a ladder would be required when in the stockroom and because it was therefore deemed not part of the role, despite the training, the employer had to pay for the injury at work.

The employer was informed however that if their job descriptions had been more of a generic overview, then it was unlikely the claim would have been successful.

And this story isn't new, a similar thing happened when I was in retail in 2002.

I've always thought of role profiles as an outline, it is impossible to cover every eventually and everything that every member of our teams will need to do on a daily basis.


And if you need the detail to stop the 'that's not in my job description' conversation, then perhaps it's a conversation about whether you have the right people in your company instead of pages and pages of bullet points of what the job may and may not include.

@TheChrysalisCrew we have role outlines that cover three things: what we need (why the role is required), what you'll have (skills and experience), role outcomes (what the role needs to achieve), and it's literally three 'bubbles' on a page with some high-level points - because the rest of the role and the tasks and any changes evolve over time and for a business our size, sometimes daily.

The Business Transformation Network has posted this article in partnership with Chrysalis Consulting.


Kelly Swingler is the Rule Breaker and Founder of Chrysalis Consulting, The People and Change Experts and was appointed as the UK’s Youngest HR Director.  Kelly is passionate about helping people find bespoke people solutions to suit the needs of their business and is driving our mission of inspiring and empowering 10,000 HR professionals in 2018. She is the author of Fostering a Mindset for Career SuccessAGILE HR and what’s your excuse for not Overcoming Stress and speaks at many events on the Future of Work.