What Is Job Knowledge?

Jan Fletcher

Job knowledge is the understanding of a set of responsibilities specific to a job, as well as the ongoing capacity to stay abreast of changes in job functions. The collective job knowledge of the staff of an organization or company is a human resource asset of immense value in the marketplace. Sometimes referred to as "intellectual capital," a worker's knowledge of a particular job should closely match the actual job performance required.

Poor job knowledge may result in job termination.
Poor job knowledge may result in job termination.

There are productivity benefits to regularly assessing job knowledge within an organization. Job responsibilities can evolve over time in an incremental fashion, as new procedures and technology are integrated into the workflow for a particular job position. Human resource management may be unaware that a drifting of defined responsibilities and tasks has taken place. Formally tracking those changes that occur in each job position is a necessary part of optimally managing the workforce. Managers who monitor the quality and accuracy of job knowledge also have a sound base from which to fairly evaluate job performance against company benchmarks.

If a worker fails to carry out the duties of his job description, he may be fired.
If a worker fails to carry out the duties of his job description, he may be fired.

In evaluating a worker's job knowledge, the aim is to assess how closely the existing job description matches the worker's assigned tasks. If a significant mismatch exists between performance expectations and actual duties and tasks performed, managers or human resource personnel will likely investigate the reason for the divergence. They may take corrective measures, which could involve additional training, reassigning tasks, reformulating the job description, or terminating the position or the worker, or both.

Sometimes, management may be restrained from freely redefining a job position or repositioning a worker because of existing provisions in contracts negotiated with organized labor unions, or governmental regulations. If the worker is covered under a collective bargaining agreement with a union, a mismatch between job descriptions and actual job functions may result in action by the union to insist the mismatch be corrected. For example, if an employee is responsible for inspections that involve climbing ladders, or handling hazardous materials, specific job knowledge may be covered by safety regulations. A company may not be legally free to ask another worker to fill in for that employee.

Training in job knowledge may also be mandated and regulated by governmental authorities. If a worker assumes he or she has a responsibility to complete a task that may fall under government-mandated safety regulations, yet does not also possess the certification or training required by those regulations, the employer may incur fines or other penalties. Many consider it an ethical responsibility of a business to fairly and accurately match a job description with the job knowledge it requires.

The collective job knowledge of the staff of a company is a human resource asset of immense value.
The collective job knowledge of the staff of a company is a human resource asset of immense value.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@pastanaga - I'd be interested to know what the numbers are there though. There's a reason you want even your lowest paid employees to know their stuff. They are usually the ones interacting with the customers and the customers are the most important aspect of any business.

Is it really more cost efficient to treat their first point of contact as though they were interchangeable and without much value? I would think they would do better business if they made sure they had the best people out there selling and that those people were kept happy.


@Ana1234 - It depends on the job though. I'm sure that a lot of companies with high turnover have done the math and know whether it's easier to cut back on the perks and the wages and keep having to train new people, or make sure they keep the ones they've got.

And this is why the major minimum wage companies tend to have a very streamlined process in hiring. If you know that your job vacancies are going to be fairly constant, it makes sense to have a video for induction, rather than sparing a staff member, and to have as many automated systems in place as possible, so there isn't all that much to learn.

I guess in that case there isn't really that much job knowledge involved in the positions. It's set up so that anyone can do it.


Job knowledge is the reason it is so important to keep hold of your staff by treating them well. If you don't, you end up losing that resource and you have to spend resources like time and money in recruiting someone new who has to gain the knowledge associated with your particular company and their particular position.

It's cheaper to just pay them a little bit extra, or provide other perks to keep your staff happy, than to keep losing them as soon as they have enough experience to move on to bigger and better things.

Post your comments
Forgot password?