Job Descriptions 
Vital Tool for Recruiting, Training
By Elizabeth Johnson,  Public Relations Manager

Ask someone to do a task they don’t usually perform and they’re likely to wisecrack, “It’s not in my job description.”  But a recent study by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Motel Association and KPMG Peat Marwick reveals that many hotel employees may not even know what’s included in their job descriptions. 

According to the U.S. Full-Service, Deluxe, and Luxury Hotel Benchmarking Study, only 51.5 percent of properties surveyed provide their employees with written job descriptions as part of the training process.  This was an unexpected discovery, since it is commonly believed that written job descriptions are critical to successful employee performance. 

Tina Lyle, human resource manager for Holiday Inn Hotels, takes that observation a step further.  “All recruiting efforts and training programs should start with job descriptions,” says Lyle. “They help applicants, employees, and managers.” 

Applicants benefit from job descriptions, which help them understand what skills are required to do the job. 

“They give candidates a realistic job preview,” Lyle explains. “A large number of applicants have never stayed in a hotel before.  They may understand the concept, but have no idea of the services and labor required to make a guest’s stay possible.” 

In today’s diverse workforce, it is also important to have job descriptions available in a variety of languages. 

Job descriptions help employees understand the performance expectations of their job. They provide employees with a clear set of job performance standards, outline the scope of their job responsibilities, and show them where they fit in the organizational structure of the property. 

According to Lyle, many job descriptions today don’t represent what employees actually do on a day-to-day basis.  They have a tendency to be vague and too formal. To correct this problem, Lyle suggests involving current employees in the process of updating job descriptions on a regular basis. In addition to keeping employees focused on their daily tasks, this process encourages teamwork as employees better understand each team member’s responsibilities and duties. 

Taking the time to analyze jobs and create accurate job descriptions can also highlight problems with specific positions.  Lewis C. Forrest Jr., author of Training in the Hospitality Industry (©1990, Educational Institute of AH&MA) describes a case in which a restaurant discovered that one of its kitchen positions consisted of 87 separate job duties, instead of the 15 to 30 duties of most other positions.  The restaurant had always experienced high turnover in that position—and now the manager knew why.  Following this analysis, the position was divided into two jobs, and some duties were redistributed to other positions, leaving the job realistic and manageable for the employee. 

Job descriptions help managers identify important qualifications needed to be successful on the job, which should in turn help avoid costly hiring mistakes. They also provide a blueprint for effective employee training, which increases employee morale and reduces turnover. 
 Some managers may feel they don’t have the time to analyze jobs and prepare job descriptions. However, without these descriptions, any training will be incomplete and disorganized, failing to cover important points and details.  Such an attitude tells employees that management does not have a commitment to performance standards, and employees will reflect this attitude to guests.  On the other hand, employees develop respect for organized managers who give priority to well-planned, high-quality training.  This attitude is also reflected to guests. 

Finally, training employees and reviewing their performance based on written job descriptions can prove useful in the event of a lawsuit.  While not required by federal law, written job descriptions that have been clearly communicated to employees can stave off potential due process conflicts that can arise from employee performance reviews, warnings and termination proceedings. 

When managers and employees are on the same (written) page when it comes to responsibilities and standards, there’ll be no reason for anyone to say, “It’s not in my job description.” 

This article originally appeared in Lodging magazine. 

For information on hospitality training from the Educational Institute, contact

800 N. Magnolia Ave., Suite 1800
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 999-8100 • (800) 752-4567
fax (407) 236-7848
web site:
Also See:
Who Are You Hiring? Pre-Employment Screenings Help You Find Out / Elizabeth Johnson / EI
Looking for a Few Good Employees: How to Attract and Keep the Best / Elizabeth Johnson / EI

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