Our Head of Continuous Improvement, Robert Talbot, talks about the value of a good job description.

At Ascent, we are committed to continuous improvement, and we see this as being more than just system and process changes. Whilst it is of course important to try and find the most efficient way to complete a task, we also think more widely about how to become even better. A crucial element of this is our people – our people are our biggest asset, so how do we inspire them to be the best they can be? The perfect starting point would be with the job description.

Whether used as an aid within the job recruiting process or as part of a management toolkit, a detailed, up-to-date job description can benefit both the employee (or potential employee) and the business by providing structure and clarity in terms of the employer’s expectations of an employee.

A good job description should go beyond some of the almost obligatory sections of job title, role objective/responsibilities, desired experience and benefits, but should also give the reader a glimpse into the company and its culture.

As part of our drive towards achieving excellence, at Ascent we feel it is important that the job description does more than “what it says on the tin”. For any role we will always ask ourselves:

  • What is this role intending to achieve? Having a clear understanding of the goals, how this is measured and what factors will indicate success.
  • What would not get done if this role did not exist? This is another way of looking at the necessity of the role and can help narrow the key objectives for colleagues.
  • What contribution does this role make to the business? Both employer and colleague like to know that they are adding value and that the work they are doing is contributing to any success achieved.

Therefore it is important that the job description:

  • Clarifies our expectations of our colleagues and provides a clear description of the tasks to be carried out by them.
  • Outlines the day to day responsibilities
  • who the colleague reports to, and who reports into them
  • what budget (if any) the colleague is responsible for
  • whether a colleague interacts with customers
  • whether a  colleague gets involved in planning and organising
  • mandate for decision making
  • Provides clear reference points against which a colleague’s performance can be measured, forming the basis for appraisals and performance reviews, as well as for counselling.
  • Enables pay and grading systems to be structured logically and fairly.

Being part of a highly regulated environment, it is also important to make sure that all our job descriptions for roles within Ascent are clearly outlined, detailing what each individual does and what they are responsible for, as well capturing the key knowledge and skills required to be a success in the role. That way the business, the colleagues in the role, our clients and the regulators (should they require it) are all completely clear on what each individual is accountable for.

This is particularly pertinent now, with the implementation date for the Senior Managers & Certification Regime (SMCR) – which is already in place for banks and building societies – fast approaching on 9 December for all remaining FCA-regulated firms such as Ascent. SMCR is an important part of the FCA’s efforts to improve “culture” within the financial services industry, designed to increase individual accountability and responsibility throughout the sector and bring senior individuals in financial services to account for any misconduct.

Of course, having a clear job description is good for our colleagues too – not only do they require clear direction, it gives the purpose to the role, which adds to their motivation, I find that colleagues really want to be able to explain to their families and friends exactly what it is they do and what responsibilities they have, and a good job description acts as a perfect reference point to enable them to do that.

If you would like to know more about what we’re doing around job descriptions and SMCR, please contact me.