POSITION DESCRIPTION WORKSHOP

Goal-Setting

What is your goal in reviewing your position description?  Is it to update the information?  Deal with workload or schedule issues?  Prepare for a reclass or IRP?  Respond to supervisor complaints or pressure?

Although the process for reviewing position descriptions is similar for all of them, there are some fine points that differ.  An employee looking for salary advancement will want to describe current duties at the highest possible skill level and responsibility.  An employee looking to control workload or defend against criticism will want to be as specific as possible and limit the duties and responsibility.

In either case, it is important to be accurate and truthful in the position description.  Avoid going too far in puffing up or dumbing down descriptions.  Reasonable people should be able to recognize the actual job from reading the position description.  We want management to take position descriptions seriously so we should expect them to be correct.

Starting Points

You should start with copies of past and present position descriptions.  An employee without any position description is very unusual.  Out of date position descriptions are very common.  Position descriptions should be no older than three years.

Print out the Classification and Qualification Standard (CQS) for the position.  If you have been reclassified in the same position, print out the prior CQS as well.  These are available from the CSU Chancellor’s Office HR web site (www.calstate.edu/hr/).

­Inclusion/Exclusion of Duties

You should review the most current position description and identify duties which are no longer performed, or which have changed, or duties which are performed but not listed.  You can strike out duties which are not performed and write in duties which are changed or added.

Comparison to Class Standard

You should be able to read from the position description and find a corresponding description in the class standard.  This will not be exact language.  The position description is usually job-specific and detailed while the class standard is general.  You can use a highlighter to mark the corresponding duties.

If the position description lists duties which are not in the class standard, identify those (using a different highlighter color, for example).  These duties should be compared to class standards which are higher or lower than the current classification.

If the duties are lower, be reassured that the CSU does not demote employees on the basis of position descriptions.  It is management’s responsibility to assign work of the appropriate level.  In some cases, employees may be complaining that the work is too low and they want higher level work.  This is how that case is documented.

If the duties are higher and in the same classification series (Administrative Support Series or Analyst/Specialist Series, for example) then identify the amount of those duties in relation to the rest of the in-class duties.  Classifiers will look at the amount of duties above and below class in allocating the position.  Often, they use an informal 50% rule for determining the class.

It is also important to determine whether the duties are permanent or temporary.  Employees should list all of their duties, even those which are temporary.  Temporary assignment of duties should be documented, sometimes separately from the position description.  Higher classification temporary assignments are eligible for out of class pay (Article 17 of the union contract).

If the duties are outside of the current class and also outside of the classification standard, this is a problem.  The CSU accepts the notion of hybrid positions combining duties from different classifications.  The Union does not, because these blur the distinctions between bargaining units and the distinctions between classifications in pay and working conditions.

If the mixed classes include Exempt and Non-Exempt classes, or radically different pay levels, then the employee should be looking for a reclass.  Similar pay and overtime status are easier to accommodate, but may create conflicts in meeting disparate work responsibilities from different classifications.

General Standards

A position description should describe work that is normal and reasonable (a phrase used in the Education Code to describe the employer’s expectations for an average employee).  Normal and reasonable should include work that is of the same type, clearly described, and able to be accomplished with ordinary effort.

The position description should distinguish between different areas of the assignment and assign percentages of work.  A position with a single paragraph and 100% is hard to manage.  The duties and percentages establish priorities and amount of time devoted to duties (even for Exempt employees).

Position descriptions should draw from existing classifications in CSUEU represented bargaining units.  The norm is use of a single class for the duties.  At a minimum, the duties should be from CSUEU represented units only.  If the work is from different classes, these duties should be distinguished in the position description so the employee, supervisor, and a classifier can tell how much time and effort is spent on each type of work.

Managing Workload

Position descriptions can be used to manage workload for both Exempt and Non-Exempt employees.

For Non-Exempt classes, the position description percentages can be translated directly into a full-time, forty hour week.  If a lead responsibility is listed as 10%, for example, that means 4 hours per week should be devoted to that responsibility.  The forty hour week is a finite period.  That means that increasing the percentage of one duty requires reducing the percentage of another or providing overtime.  Employees should log their work over a period of time to determine if the percentages are correct.  Since position descriptions are the official assignment, variations from that should be reflected in a change in position description, temporary reassignment, or overtime.

For Exempt classes, the position description percentages still reflect a division of the work week, but that work week can flex up or down.  A lead duty of 10%, for example, would reflect 4 hours in a 40 hour week, 5 hours in a fifty hour week, etc.  While the manager may claim that Exempt status reflects any amount of time necessary to perform the job, the position description still defines the relative amount of time.  An Exempt employee with conflicting responsibilities can request clarification of working instructions in terms of increasing or reducing the amount of time on the different required duties.

Say, for example, a lead duty of 10% actually requires two days or 16 hours of time and effort.  The employee can point to the position description and say too much time is being taken for the duty and it should be increased and others reduced, or the additional work removed.  If the manager demands that all the duties should be performed then the employee can still request that the percentages be correct.  If the work routinely requires an extreme amount of time (for example, 80 hours every week), then the employee can request a compensating amount of time off (pursuant to the contract).

Managing Stress

Stress is an issue that can be related to workload but also related to the complexity of tasks and the pressure from management/customers.  Volume of work is obviously a factor and one point of the position description is to describe a reasonable job.  Position descriptions also identify complexity, disparate duties, conflicting responsibilities, priorities, and timelines, multiple reporting relationships, etc.

An employee who identifies stress as a major issue in her/his job should work through the position description to identify the most stressful factors.  This includes duties and reporting, although it is difficult to describe relationship problems in the context of a position description.  The position description can serve as a starting point for discussion with the supervisor on problems in the work.  Problem areas could be highlighted for discussion and resolution.

Job stress related to the nature of the job can be identified through the position description.  Other sources of stress – on or off-campus relationships, financial problems, health issues – are not a part of the position description but accommodation of those issues can be.  Restructuring the job and flexing the schedule are two ways of reducing work stress while maintaining performance.

Compensation

Position descriptions can assist the employee in pursuit of additional compensation.  The most obvious is reclass, discussed above, but it also assists with In-Range Progression, bonuses and stipends.

In-Range Progression and bonuses both have criteria for performance and skills.  The difference between the two are whether the pay increase is permanent or one-time.  Both can be awarded for permanent improvements in performance and addition of skills and new duties.  In-Range Progression may also be awarded for positions that include out-of-class work that is below the 50% Human Resources threshold.

Changes in position descriptions can be used to document improvements in skills and higher responsibilities (evaluations are another source of documentation).  Increases in workload and responsibilities can justify a claim of improved performance.

Stipends are paid for project coordination and/or lead work.  It is important to note project responsibilities and lead work in the position description.  This includes direction of students and work with outside vendors or other non-campus entities.  Work on Foundation projects, when related to the state position, should also be noted.

Once documented, this provided the employee with an objective reason for requesting a stipend or IRP for the work.

Working with the Manager

Managers are responsible for issuing the final position description.  It represents an order from the administrator to perform the specific duties listed.

Managers and employees are supposed to work together to develop the position description.  An employee has the right to demand accuracy and completeness in the final position description.

In the normal course of work, the manager and the employee work together on the position description.  Some managers may even ask the employee to provide the first draft.

In any case, position descriptions should be seen as an opportunity to discuss and negotiate.  Managers have an interest in the performance of the employee.  Position descriptions are the starting point for the work and the basis for evaluation, reward or correction.

Managers will see the position description as a work issue between them and their subordinates, not a subject for representation with a union steward.  Except where other problems occur (abuse, harassment, wage and hour violations, etc.) the role of the union steward is to coach and advise the employee in the background.

Working with Human Resources

Position descriptions are required to be maintained in the official personnel file in Human Resources.  They are sometimes (but not always) reviewed by HR for consistency with the classification standard.  They are reviewed in detail when an employee or manager makes a reclassification request.

The Union encourages good personnel practices around position descriptions.  This means verifying the receipt of a position description in HR, providing copies upon request, and auditing them for consistency with classification standards.

Human Resources provides guidance to managers on the preparation, revision, retention and use of position descriptions.  The initial position description is usually prepared from the position requisition and job posting.  They also advise on the use of position descriptions in work directions and evaluations.

Problems with the creation, revision and accuracy of position descriptions can require contact with Human Resources and, if necessary, grievances.  HR should be encouraged to have good practices in place and to quickly resolve problems which occur.

Signatures

Position descriptions may have multiple signature lines for the employee, supervisor, dean/department head, vice president, etc.  The essential signatures are the employee and the supervisor.  Under the union contract, each employee has a single appropriate administrator who is responsible for giving direction.  The position description is a work direction.

Sometimes employees have refused to sign their position description.  This is an indication of another problem such as reasonable work, responsibilities, etc. that should be resolved.

CONCLUSION

Position descriptions are important and it is the responsibility of every employee to maintain an accurate position description.  Union representatives can provide valuable advice and support for the employee, but we cannot replace the willingness of the employee to take personal responsibility.