Small Business at Work

Writing a Position Description from scratch seems tedious. It seemed like a good idea - now it looks like it's going to take a long time.

Make it easy, and make it good! "Work from the whole to the part" - it's always sound advice.

Begin by looking at what is surrounding the person in the role you are describing, (the context), and then consider the responsibilities you need covered.

Your employee will have duties that help her or him discharge those responsibilities. Think carefully about what they are.

Now, how will you know if this employee is being successful? Set out a small number of key issues in their role - the things they have to do really well. They're the kind of things that have to be right, or you business suffers. They will become your key performance indicators.

These can be hard to measure, but there are things you can measure which reflect the performance of your staffer. For instance, a KPI of being an effective sales person, can be measured by how many new accounts are signed up. That's your first key performance measure - KPM. The second KPM might be how many of those new accounts actually stick! And so on.

Do it one step at a time. Take a break if you want - the browser can stay open while you do something else.

Consider the ten pointers which follow.

Click Here to see the sample Position Description. This will open in a new window.

with any queries or concerns you may have in completing your draft Position Description, or running an annual appraisal.

The Position Description Help Page

What to Consider in Adding Your PD Data


  1. The position title needs to be descriptive and accurate. Calling someone a 'manager' when there is nothing or no one being managed may tickle their ego, but it is unlikely to produce good long term results.
  2. 'Work Location' can be a specific location within the organisation, for example 'Toolroom', or a branch location, or a town, suburb, city, or region.
  3. 'Job Context' is a brief background to why the job exists, and how it relates to overall business growth and development. Two or there paragraphs should cover it.
  4. 'Brief Summary of Position' is a two or three paragraph 'thumbnail picture' of what the position is there to do, to set the scene for the detail which follows.
  5. When completing the "Communication with Others" section, spell out all the kinds of people (not the personal names) the position should legitimately communicate with. This reinforces that some positions have a responsibility to talk with certain specific groups, even if they don't want to. It also helps employees understand that some people (like suppliers, for example), are outside their authorised lines of communication, and this helps avoid 'crossed lines'.
  6. For 'What the Position Does', notice that both 'Responsibilities' and 'Duties' are listed. 'Responsibilities' are 'big picture' stuff, like "Ensuring that all deliveries are despatched on time." About six things is all you could reasonably expect in this item.
  7. 'Duties' include the range of things that must be done to make sure the deliveries are on time - for instance 'Compile the pick list'. No more than ten. [The next level of detail, 'Tasks' should also be considered, but they are not shown here. Usually, one has to carry out several tasks to discharge a 'duty'. For example, 'Compile the pick list' would require several steps, including the task of "summarizing the daily delivery list' which probably needs some computer skills. Consider these things next in the "Skills" section.]
  8. 'Selection Criteria' has two sides to it. The first is the skills list a person requires to fulfil the job requirements. You need to list the skills required to carry out the tasks this person has to complete properly. The second part is the list of other requirements, like 'good presentation' say, for a receptionist. In total, there should not be more than ten or a dozen items combined listed in this 'Selection Criteria' section.
  9. In 'Performance Assessment', you need to list the position title of the person who will carry out an annual employee appraisal. Remember to do it each anniversary of the start date!!
  10. For 'Key Performance Indicators' (KPI's), list the qualities of the performance that will make the employee's performance appear to be good. For example, "Maintaining good Relationships with customers". This cannot be measured or rated directly. That is why we have 'Key Performance Measures", which are directly measurable - for instance "Number of written customer complaints", which you could use for one of the measures to be listed. Five 'KPI's' are allowed here, but usually four are enough.
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