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Job Analysis

Conducting a job analysis is one of the first strategic actions an HR professional should do. The data gathered from a thorough job analysis is used to build job descriptions, job specifications, and to ensure the best employee-organization fit.

What Is a Job Analysis?

Job analysis is the process of reviewing a certain job to identify why it exists, and what’s required of employees filling the position. The objective is to review all of the components of each role within an organization, identify each of the skills required for successful performance, and ultimately, to determine the overall fit between the employee (or potential employee) and the role.

The History of Job Analysis

The concept of examining working conditions is not a new one. It’s such a critical process that its roots actually go back to the early philosophers who recognized the necessity of understanding jobs and their impact on an organization.

The modern version was created in the 1900’s. Frederick W. Taylor, an inventor and engineer, was interested in the science of management and the efficiency of work. Taylor is credited with utilizing the concept of job analysis in his studies.

By the 1960’s, the job analysis became firmly entrenched in American businesses as a strategic tactic to more fully understand jobs and the workers who perform them.

Job Analysis vs Competency Modeling

Determining the approach to take when conducting an analysis depends on your objective. It may be task-based or competency-based. Or, there may be a need to utilize components from each version.

The task-based approach is typically focused on the components of the job. It’s more objective because it describes specific tasks and duties independently of the person performing them. The objectivity also generally makes this method legally compliant in the event of a challenge. It’s generally most suitable for non-management jobs with few decision-making responsibilities.

Conversely, competency modeling is focused on the person who performs the job. It measures the knowledge and ability of the employee performing the tasks vs. the tasks performed. This is a bit of a judgment call, making this method more subjective and more difficult to defend. But it can be an effective method for roles requiring a higher level of decision-making.

Why Is Job Analysis Important?

Although it can be a significant expenditure of time, this is a critical process as it identifies the very reason that a job exists in an organization. The data gathered about jobs and their role in your organization supports multiple decisions and HR programs.

It involves examining all of the required components of the job including: knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), the amount of effort needed to perform the tasks, typical working conditions, and the physical demands expected.

It provides essential information for both employers and employees that clearly identifies the correlation between duties and expectations and how the role fits into the organization.

Reasons to Conduct a Job Analysis

There are so many fundamental employee-based decisions that flow from the data gathered that the investment of time and effort can result in savings in efficiency, redundancy, and legal challenges.

The data will be used to support decisions for:

Job Descriptions, Recruitment, and Selection

Job descriptions are critical to describe the role and qualifications to candidates. Selection decisions that are tied to the job description are generally successful and defensible.

Performance Evaluation

Evaluating employee performance can be challenging as the results  impact employee pay and advancement opportunities. Aligning employee performance with the analysis data and the resulting job description clearly identifies expectations for the employee.

Compliance

Adhering to the information gathered in the job analysis, and communication of the results, provides the strongest defense to any legal challenges or claims.

Setting Compensation

The results of the analysis work in conjunction with benchmarking to determine the appropriate pay rate.

Succession Planning

The data gathered identifies employees who possess the skills needed to be considered for advancement or those who need additional training to prepare for the next level.

Training Programs

HR or the training team may utilize data gathered to identify the need for initial or re-training.

Job and Safety Evaluations

The results will determine the safety requirements for each job as well as to assess the need for adjustments or corrections to safety requirements.

Job Design

When a new job is created or an existing job must be changed, the job data must be analyzed to identify needed changes. This is especially useful when re-designing a job.

Information to Gather When Conducting a Job Analysis

Conducting a job analysis should be a comprehensive process so it may  require a significant investment of time. But it’s a worthwhile expenditure as it’s a project that will serve as a benchmark for future actions and workforce decisions.

Understanding and communicating the objective of the analysis, why it’s needed, and what it will solve will be helpful in obtaining the necessary support.

Another decision to be made prior to beginning the project is deciding on one of the several methods available for collecting, comparing, and analyzing results. The team working on the project should review the options and choose the one that is the most effective and efficient for their company.

Regardless of the method used to collect the data, there are multiple data points needed to complete the analysis.

Job Specific

This includes all of the identifying components necessary to perform the job.

  • Titles are very important to employees and their role in the organization (regardless of what they say) as well for the employer in determining relative value to the organization. The title should clearly match the responsibilities and supervisory requirements in order to avoid misunderstandings about roles and responsibilities.
  • Essential and non-essential tasks & responsibilities – critical for defense in employee or legal challenges.
  • Knowledge, skills, and abilities required (KSAs)
  • Performance standards that the employee must meet in order to be successful performing this job

Environmental Characteristics

  • Equipment and resources needed to perform responsibilities
  • Physical demands (standing, lifting, speaking, etc.)
  • Working conditions (loud noise, temperature, solitary, etc.)

Organizational Structure

  • Where does this job fit in the organization?
  • Who does the incumbent report to and/or have accountability to?
  • Supervisory responsibilities and level – team member, team/group leader, supervisor, other
  • Collaboration with others – does the job require contact with other departments, vendors, or customers?
  • Decision-making or problem-solving requirements – specify if the job requires any independent decision-making as well as the level of urgency and the impact of decisions made by the employee..

The Most Popular Job Analysis Methods

Identifying the best method for your company is based on a number of factors. The most popular analysis may not fit your company’s needs, budget, current situation, or any number of other factors.

In order to assist you with the decision, you’ll need to consider a variety of factors.

What is the desired organizational objective? Knowing what you want the outcome to be will help to determine how you get there.

Cost may or may not be a factor in choosing the right method but it should be a consideration, regardless. Depending on the organizational objective, the method that will require a higher cost may not be the most efficient for your objectives.

Time is also a critical factor as some methods are more time and labor intensive than others. Referring back to your objective will help to identify which method will work within your time parameters.

The organizational structure will impact the individuals who need to be involved or who actually participate.

Some methods are more subjective than others so the potential exists for bias or distortion of information on the part of the employee, the manager, the person performing the analysis, or others who have input. This is a critical point as subjective information can skew the results and invalidate the analysis for all or most of the intended purposes or even be made non-compliant.

As we’ve learned, there are a variety of methods to choose from. We’ve chosen SRHM’s (Society for Human Resource Management) examples of the most common methods.

1. Questionnaire

There are two types of questionnaires – open-ended and highly structured. Open-ended questionnaires generally focus on the job as a whole, whereas highly structured methods target specific aspects of a specific role. .

In either method, the employee or manager completes a questionnaire that focuses on the requirements needed for successful completion of the role, including:

  • Employee and job data
  • Purpose of the job and the primary responsibility
  • Essential and non-essential functions, percentage of time spent on each task, and ranking in order of importance
  • Qualifications, certifications, licenses or specialized training needed
  • KSAs
  • Decision making & problem solving responsibilities
  • Physical demands and working conditions

Pros

When designed correctly, the questionnaire method should be a reliable and objective way to obtain the information needed for each job.

Depending on the objective and how it’s designed, it may also be very comprehensive due to the detailed answers needed to describe each component of the job.

Since answers are based on quantifiable data (eg. how many times a task must be performed or the length of time that a machine must run), the questionnaire method is a good choice to obtain computerized and numerical data.

Cons

This method will provide a lot of detailed information. However, collecting such detailed information also makes this time consuming.

2. Interview

The interview method is a face-to-face meeting in which the interviewer asks the employee pre-determined and follow-up questions. The intent is to obtain specifics about the job from the employee’s perspective and is best suited to professional roles.

Pros

Obtaining information from the manager provides corroboration of the job requirements and therefore may be more objective than the employee performing the job.

But the employee can provide the level of detail that only someone who has performed the job many times can provide. The employee also often has insight into realities that the manager may not be aware of.

Additionally, the analysis may reveal issues that the manager and HR must be made aware of such as training opportunities or process inefficiencies.

Cons

The employee may not be able to provide objective information so the results may be slightly different depending on the employee participating in the analysis.

The possibility also exists that an employee may have made micro-adjustments in the job that may not be revealed in an interview but might be identified with the observation method.

3. Observation

When using an observation method, an analyst observes and records an employee performing all aspects of their role. Observations are then compared against the KSAs.

Pros

Observation provides a realistic, objective view of tasks and activities. Since it relies on the observation of the employee while actually performing the job, it may also identify opportunities for efficiency or subtle changes to the job that have not been previously identified.

SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) describes it as being ideal for some production jobs. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/performingjobanalysis.aspx

Cons

The nature of the observation method makes it potentially less structured than other strategies. That may result in biased interpretations of tasks performed without the appropriate context provided by the employee, manager or HR.

4. Work Diary or Log

This method requires the employee to maintain a weekly or monthly record of the work performed and the frequency of all tasks.

The analyst reviews the results looking for patterns which are converted into job tasks and responsibilities.

Pros

The results of a work diary can be both a positive and a negative, depending on your objectives.The employee records every job-related task and action into the log. As a result, there can be a significant amount of data produced. While that provides a level of detail that may not otherwise be known, it can be time consuming to sift through all of the data points to find the patterns.

Cons

While employees are the experts in performing their jobs, the possibility exists that they will interpret and record data with some bias. Therefore, the analysis team should make sure employees using this method are properly trained in how to record data.

And, since this method relies on point-in-time reporting of tasks, the results can be  difficult to keep current. If the analysis is not completed within a reasonable period of time or isn’t communicated in a timely manner, the information can quickly become outdated or incorrect.

When Should I Perform Job Analyses? And How Often?

  • New or growing companies
  • New HR professional/employee
  • Result of an incident or challenge
  • Recruiting or retention issues
  • Periodically as part of an HR strategic plan

It’s important to have fundamental knowledge of an organization’s jobs in order to make good management decisions about employee programs. HR professionals should prioritize a review of past analyses or to perform a new one.

How to Perform Your First Job Analysis

There are 5 key questions to consider when planning your first job analysis:

1. Who Will Perform It and Who Needs to Be Involved?

It’s critical to involve the most qualified individuals such as HR, the employee, the employee’s manager, and the person conducting the analysis. But, everyone who relies on the job being analyzed should be informed of the process.

In addition to HR, the analyst, and the employee, the following individuals may play a role:

  • The manager of the function has in-depth knowledge of the roles and responsibilities and may provide a broader view of how the job fits in the organization.
  • A training professional or analyst understands learning objectives and expected outcomes, how to ask follow-up questions, and how to interpret information.
  • Depending on your parameters, consider using a cross-departmental team that has a stake in the outcome.

2. What Is the Best Method for the Organization to Use?

This depends on the method that best aligns with the organization’s objective and desired outcome, the budget and time allotted for the project, and the level of support from leadership.

3. Are There Budget and Time Constraints?

As with most impactful initiatives, Identify and address any concerns that leadership may have involving time involvement or financial expenditures.

4. Which Roles Will Be Included? 

The decision to include certain jobs vs others is dependent on the business objective or to address any inequities or challenges raised by employees. It can also determine which analysis method is best to achieve the objective.

5. Who Are the Stakeholders and How Will the Results Be Communicated?

It’s always beneficial to obtain support from anyone who has a vested interest in the results. Identifying and involving the key players increases the odds of a smooth process. Continue to involve them by communicating the results and the plan to implement identified changes.

After you’ve determined your answers to these questions, you’re ready to begin your first Job Analysis, using your answers as a guide.

Next, you can look forward to data gathering, reporting, and implementing necessary actions based on the results.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Job Analysis

Who conducts job analyses?
The Human Resources function has a unique perspective as well as in-depth knowledge of an organization. So, it’s not surprising that HR is often responsible to conduct job analyses. Depending on the size of the organization and complexity of jobs, some companies may use a specially trained Job Analyst. This may be the employee’s manager or a specialist from another department but it should be an individual who understands the purpose, has a depth of knowledge of the organization, and can be relied upon to provide detailed, accurate, and objective information.
What does a job analysis report look like?
There are many ways to present the results of an analysis. The information may be descriptive and/or data driven. You may opt to include an executive summary. But the main purpose is to clearly identify specifics about all tasks, responsibilities, and special requirements of the job from the data gathered.
How is job analysis different from job evaluation?
As we’ve outlined, a job analysis focuses on the specific components of individual jobs and helps to determine employee-job fit. A job evaluation is a related, but separate, process with a different objective. Using the data gathered from the job analysis, the evaluation process compares and ranks jobs to each other in order to determine their relative value in the organization. This process is especially important to assist in determining pay rates. As we’ve discussed, the job analysis is a foundational process which provides critical data to support HR documents, programs, and processes. For busy HR professionals, it might feel like yet another item on the to-do list. But it will actually serve as one of your most valuable reference sources. When it has been conducted correctly, the job analysis is a strategic action that will serve as a legally compliant guide to support critical job-related decisions.
Beth Campagno

Beth Campagno

Beth has many years of corporate HR and business experience in a variety of business environments. She found her second career writing a wide variety of HR content (DE&I, thought leadership, blog articles, eBooks, case studies, and more) for HR SaaS companies.

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