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How do I write a work description?

Realistic work descriptions can help motivate and retain employees. In fact, most collective agreements require work descriptions to be complete and current.

In the Public Service, managers must ensure that work descriptions reflect the tasks assigned — especially when these change.

First steps

  1. Contact your human resources advisor for advice.
  2. Review your organizational chart, mandates and the duties of related positions.
  3. Speak to colleagues about the requirements of the position and the work.
  4. If the work description could touch on other mandates, consult with the heads of corporate functions such as IT, Finance and Communications for their input.
  5. Consider using a generic work description.

Writing a new work description

What are the ingredients of a good generic work description ?

  • The appropriate occupational group and level are clearly identified.
  • The work of all positions using the same generic work description have the same occupational group and level.
  • The work described covers the vast majority of the work assigned.
  • Employees in positions using a generic work description perform most of the work described.
  • A reader can identify the work being done simply from the work description.
  • The work described is appropriate to the organizational context.

Some positions could involve a mix of different types of work. Consequently, it may not be possible to establish a suitable classification at the outset. In such cases, gathering all the relevant information is best way to begin.

  • Start with client-service results. They are the products or services — or a combination of the two — that the employee would provide. For example, “Planning and direction of the development, implementation, integration and maintenance of database programs to ensure that they meet internal and external client needs.”
  • Then describe the work by identifying key activities. These are the tasks that the employee must do to deliver the client-service results described above. They state the primary purpose of the work as well as the basis for the evaluation and classification. A key activity might be described in this way: “Finds opportunities for enhancing service, increasing productivity and reducing costs.“
  • Next, you usually describe the skill, effort and responsibility involved in the work and give information about working conditions. Try to keep this to about three pages; too much information can be confusing.
A human resources advisor can recommend the work- description format and content best suited to your organizational needs.

Generic work descriptions

Many organizations look to generic descriptions to reduce the time it takes to classify a position, to begin a staffing action or to group similar jobs where the broad duties are much the same. Generic work descriptions also encourage consistent application of classification standards.

But a risk exists: Because employees want accurate work descriptions, some may feel that their work is not fully reflected in the generic version.

It’s up to departmental managers to determine how broad their generic work descriptions should be within their own organizational context. On a government-wide basis, some generic descriptions are now available and others are being developed.

Consult Guidelines on work-description writing for more detailed information.