Position Descriptions and Performance Standards

Chapter 5

Helpful—and Required

The standards of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) include specific guidelines for creating and applying job (position) descriptions.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 also focuses on the legal importance of job descriptions.

A Job Description —

— actually defines requirements for a particular job as it was done in the past at a particular point in time.; since it is always at risk of growing outdated, it must be updated regularly.

Positions are Classed as —

Salaried, or exempt

Hourly, or nonexempt

—- with exempt and nonexempt referring to requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Exempt means —

Exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA – overtime need not be paid to exempt employees.

Nonexempt means —

Workers in nonexempt positions—generally “hourly” workers—must be paid 1-1/2 times their “regular” rate for hours in excess of 40 per week.

Summary Statement

Leads off a job description. Also referred to as a position summary, umbrella statement, position purpose or goal, etc., it condenses the responsibilities of the position into a concise statement.

Required Competencies

Competencies or qualifications describe the requirements of the job, usually expressed in terms of education, experiences, licensure, etc.

Reporting Relationships

This section of the job description identifies, by position title, an incumbent’s immediate superior and others to whom he or she may be directly accountable

Job Description Must Also Show:

Authority of position

Degree of independence

Responsibilities and duties

Special demands

Working conditions

Reasonable Accommodations

The ADA requires that “reasonable accommodations” be provided for physically or mentally challenged employees.

Uses of Job Descriptions

The most common uses of job descriptions are:

interviewing prospective employees

training and orienting employees, and

applications related to performance evaluation

Other Uses Include:

Preparing employment advertising

Evaluating jobs (for pay grade, etc.)

Conducting counseling

Evaluating compliance with requirements

Providing a record of job content

Providing information pertinent to a job for legal purposes

Performance Standards

inform employees how well they must do their work and often how much they must do

simplify performance evaluations, especially if a pay-for-performance strategy is in place

Without Performance Standards —

— employee evaluations are highly subjective, heavy on opinion and personality assessments, and are thus difficult if not impossible to defend

Levels of Performance

A few organizations use only two levels of performance:

“meets standard” and

“fails to meet standard.”

Levels of Performance

Significantly more organizations use three levels:

(1) does not meet expectations (fails),

(2) meets expectations (passes), and

(3) exceeds expectations (excels).

Compliance Standards

Relating to what someone does or does not do, no gradations and no middle ground, these can be two-level standards as simple as Pass/Fail or Yes/No.

An Appropriate Standard

describes a level below which performance is not acceptable

provides a challenge but is attainable by most incumbents

is results-based and quantifiable whenever possible

is specific, objective, and measurable.

An Appropriate Standard (more)

deals with performance the employee can control.

excludes imprecise words unless these words are accompanied by descriptors

limits the use of absolute terms such as always or never

is understood and agreed to by both employee and supervisor

An Appropriate Standard (more)

does not discriminate against any member of a group protected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

directly or indirectly benefits customers.