Roles must be clearly defined

Detailed job descriptions for staff could be one of the best investments you make, writes HR specialist Alastair McFarlane

It’s important to ensure all staff are clear on their responsibilities

THE owner was on holiday. On return he found the gents’ toilet a total shambles, with pipes pulled from the wall.

“This”, he declared to me, “is definitely a sackable offence. The chargehand has been about for four years, she should have known better. All I want you to do is to make it happen!”

I took quite a bit of time, energy and effort to dissuade him but my role, as I see it, is to prevent people from embarking on a hiding to nothing.

My first question was a simple one. I asked to check on the chargehand’s job description.

“A bar chargehand is a bar chargehand… end of message.”

I then asked to see the door steward’s job. In the circumstances this was considered to be the zaniest suggestion that anyone would ever make.

The whole issue really concerned whether some of the regulars, that night a bit under the weather, should be allowed access.

The door steward recommended they stay in the street. The bar chargehand thought otherwise and allowed them into the bar.

Make sure the person whose job description it is signs a copy.

Have you job descriptions for your team? Developing them could well be the best investment you ever made.   

First job title and then to whom that person is responsible.

OK, the door steward may be responsible to the boss normally but in their absence someone else available should be named and not, definitely not, the bar chargehand.

Then a heading for ‘main responsibilities’ and here we can deal with general points such as:

• To ensure that at all times the highest level of customer service is consistently delivered.

Then to the more specific elements.


• To develop staff and  deliver  the best possible service.

• To provide solutions to all issues and concerns raised by staff.

• To allocate duties  depending on the level of business at any time.

• To interview staff and make decisions as to whether to employ them.


• To maintain records of all absences.

• To implement induction and other training programmes.

  To ensure that all health and safety and employment processes are fully implemented.

• To accept the decision of the door steward as to who should or should not be allowed to enter the premises.


• To ensure at the end of each shift that the lounge, public bar and service areas are cleaned to an acceptable standard.

• Do not forget at the end to provide a ‘mop up’ clause.


• To carry out any other reasonable duties as defined by the owner.

Here we have only an introduction to how to set out such a critical document. It is not worth the paper it is written on unless it is gone over and fully understood.

Whatever happens, make sure the person whose description it is signs a copy of the job description and both parties have a copy to hand as an acknowledgement of responsibilities.

In other words this document is at the very core of the whole process of operating the type of establishment which has the minimum of problems.

Think it through, discuss it but have it there as part of the performance review process as well, since there may be a need to update it then.

The initial problem, by the way, was not quite as simple as it sounded: the bar chargehand was pregnant and one of the regulars she welcomed that night was the father of the child!

Alastair McFarlane is a director of Professional HR Services.