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.
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.
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.