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Creating a new role description

Role descriptions describe duties and responsibilities for a particular role. Managers, HR advisors and employees benefit when roles descriptions are consistent across the public sector.

Act, regulation, rules


Section 3 of the GSE Act defines a role as the duties and responsibilities of an employee.

Organisational structures and the roles within them reflect the priorities of an organisation at a point in time, including what is needed to meet the priorities (the deliverables), and how work should be undertaken (the capabilities to be displayed). Roles may be created for short term priorities or ongoing work.

Guidance on what should be included in role descriptions is provided in the Role Description Development Guideline. A library of sector role descriptions and a web based role description builder are also available for agencies to use when developing role descriptions.

Reviewing Roles

Role review may arise from a vacancy, a change to organisational priorities, or as part of agency wide workforce planning. Role vacancy is an opportunity for managers to review whether there is a continued need for the role in its current form, whether a different combination of roles is better suited to deliver required organisational outputs and outcomes, whether the selection of focus capabilities is still appropriate, etc. (See: Strategic workforce planning)

Role analysis

Before creating a new role description you should undertake a role analysis. A role analysis is a systematic examination of the purpose, responsibilities and scope of a role in supporting business objectives.

Role descriptions

A role description (RD) is a high level overview of a job. A role description explains:

  • why the role exists
  • what the role delivers
  • the context in which the role operates, and
  • how it operates

The term "Role Description" is sometimes replaced with terms such as Job Description (JD) or Position Description (PD). The correct term to use reflects the legislation which governs the job. Employees within a public service agency are appointed to a classification of work, then assigned to roles within the classification rather than being appointed to a specific job. 

Role descriptions provide:

  • a source of information for job applicants
  • the basis for deciding what to assess when filling a role
  • the basis for job classification and grading
  • a reference point for performance plans and reviews
  • a starting point for identifying development needs
  • a resource for individual career planning through understanding what different jobs entail
  • a way to clarify job expectations for the employee, manager and organisation

Creating new role descriptions

When creating new role descriptions:

  • Look for commonality across roles to identify if a role description can cover more than one role.
  • Describe outcomes instead of processes or tasks.
  • Avoid duplication within the Role Description.
  • Include information that is likely to stay the same over time and that will be understood by both internal and external applicant.
  • Select capabilities using the NSW Public Sector Capability Framework and Occupation Specific Capability Sets where relevant.
  • Consult the Capability Comparison Guide for assistance in determining capability levels.
  • Include key knowledge and experience requirements.
  • Use the Work Level Standard for Senior Executive Roles.

More information

  • The Role Description Development Guideline provides more detailed advice on what to include in role descriptions.

  • The NSW Public Sector Capability Framework provides a common foundation for creating roles, recruiting to roles, managing performance, capability development, career planning and, more broadly, workforce planning.

See also