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This chapter is from the book

Job Analysis

Objective: Gain an Understanding of Job Analysis

Job analysis is the systematic process of gathering information regarding the duties required of a job and the human characteristics necessary to successfully perform those duties. The work products of job analysis are job descriptions, which describe the job, and job specifications, which describe what kind of person to hire for the job. Job analysis can be described as the foundation of human resource management because it the basis for so many HR programmatic activities. Job analysis is used for

  • Recruitment Provides information about the nature of the job to guide recruitment activities
  • Selection Provides information on the knowledge, skills, and abilities required of persons that can successfully perform the job
  • Training Provides information regarding the tasks to be performed and the skills and knowledge required in order to guide the development of training programs
  • Performance evaluation Provides information on the level of proficiency of various tasks that are required in order to develop performance standards
  • Compensation Provides information necessary to evaluate the internal worth of the job to the organization and to compare it with jobs in the relevant job market in order to determine appropriate wage and benefit levels
  • EEO compliance Forms the basis for determining whether employment practices and decisions are job-related

The SPHR should be familiar with a number of concepts regarding the process of job analysis. Discussed in the following sections are

  • Job analysis process
  • Job analysis information requirements
  • Data collection methods
  • Writing job descriptions and job specifications
  • Competencies and the future of job analysis

The Job Analysis Process

Job analysis can be described as a six-step process as follows:

  1. Determine the purpose for conducting job analysis. The purpose should be clearly linked to organizational success and the organizational strategic plan. A frequent reason for conducting job analysis projects is that jobs are much more dynamic than ever before. Technology and the demands of a competitive environment frequently change the nature of the job requiring reevaluation. Rapid organizational growth often means new types of jobs requiring job descriptions. High turnover or low job satisfaction might be other indicators of the need for job analysis projects. High turnover might indicate that jobs are not properly priced in relation to the external job market. Because job analysis drives compensation decisions, old job analysis results might need to be updated. Low job satisfaction is often the result of boring or repetitive jobs. Job analysis can identify new ways to design jobs to make them more interesting and challenging.
  2. Identify the jobs to be analyzed. After the purpose is identified, it provides some indication as to which jobs should be included in the job analysis. Often, however, time and resource constraints limit the total number of jobs that can be included in the process. For example, if the organization as a whole is experiencing turnover, that data should be analyzed to determine the particular departments in which the problem seems to be the worst. That analysis indicates the direction for the project. The same is true if the organization is growing or experiencing significant change in only certain areas. Those are the jobs that are most appropriate for job analysis.
  3. When a large number of employees encumber the same job, a determination must be made as to how many of the positions will be included in the project. Statistical sampling might be appropriate if the number is large.

    This is also the time in the project in which communication with both employees and managers begins to take place. They should be advised as to the purpose of the project and provided a general overview of the process.

  4. Review relevant background data. Efficient and effective job analysis often builds from previous work and data that are already corrected. A review of current job descriptions and organizational charts provides basic information with which to begin the project. Analysis of workflow assists in understanding the responsibilities of the job and how it fits into the total work process.
  5. Plan and execute the job analysis project. Planning is the key to successful projects. The appropriate data-gathering methodologies must be determined and an action plan developed as to project activities and milestones. Data collection methods are covered in the next section.
  6. Write the job description and job specifications. After the data are collected and analyzed, they must be turned into the written work outputs, job descriptions, and job specifications. Before these documents are finalized, they should be reviewed with a representative sample of both the affected employees and their managers. If modifications to the documents are required, they should be made and the appropriate final approvals obtained.
  7. Periodic review. It is good HR practice to engage in a planned process of periodic review of job descriptions and job specifications. Many organizations use a revolving process, reviewing a portion of the organization each year so that the entire organization is reviewed in a cycle—usually three, four, or five years. During the review, managers in that portion of the organization under review are required to verify the accuracy of the job descriptions and job specifications. If managers indicate job descriptions are out of date, those descriptions are included in the job analysis review. In addition, a random sample of jobs is also included for review.

Job Analysis Information Requirements

The job analysis process requires the collection of sufficient information to fully understand the job, its functions, and how it fits in both the workflow and organizational structure of the organization to produce the job description and job specifications. The following information is representative of the types of data collected during the job analysis process:

  • Work activities Information must be collected on the tasks performed by the job and what is to be accomplished (work outputs). The data should include how, why, and when the activity is performed.
  • Worker activities These data include worker behaviors such as decision-making, communicating, and performing physical actions such as lifting heavy weights.
  • Machines, tools, and equipment Data here include information regarding the types of equipment that are used in the job. This might include computers, safety equipment, machines, and other devices that facilitate accomplishment of the work.
  • Job-related tangible and intangibles Information is required on the types of materials used and the products made or services rendered. In addition, information is needed on the type of knowledge dealt with (chemistry or accounting, for example).
  • Performance standards Information is needed about requirements for productivity and quality required for successful performance of the job. Work standards, production records, and so forth are collected.
  • Job context A wide variety of information is collected here. Examples include reporting relationships, type of employees supervised (if any), working conditions, financial incentives, and types of contacts the job has with other jobs and the purposes of those contacts.
  • Human requirements These include job-related knowledge and skills such as education, training, credentials, and work experience. In addition, information is needed on required personal attributes such as aptitudes, physical characteristics, and personality.

Data Collection Methods

Information regarding the tasks performed and the human characteristics needed to successfully perform them can be gathered in many ways. The most common are as follows:

  • Observation The observer watches the individual that is performing the job and takes notes as to what is occurring. The advantage of such an approach is that the individual doing the job analysis sees for him or herself exactly what is being done. However, there are several disadvantages. The first is that this method might be appropriate only for what are referred to as short-cycle jobs; that is, those that are repetitive in nature and in which the full range of job responsibilities is repeated at relatively short intervals. Otherwise, the observer is liable to miss some of the tasks that are essential to the job. Observation cannot really capture work that is not observable, such as decision-making, thinking, and analysis. Another issue is time. Observation methods are very time-consuming, and, thus, expensive to do. Some types of observation methods are
    • Time and motion studies These are normally performed by industrial engineers and involve determining the most efficient way to perform a particular task and the normal time required to do so. Time and motion studies can be used to not only develop job descriptions and job specifications, but also to develop piece rate compensation programs.
    • Work sampling This process involves statistically sampling what is being done by the worker during random periods of the day. These are recorded and analyzed. This method is typically more efficient than continuous observation and is most appropriate for repetitive jobs.
    • Critical incidents Critical incidents are discussed in Chapter 6. They are the recordation of positive and negative job performance. Critical incidents can be used to develop the job description and job specifications and also to develop the associated performance standards.
    • Employee logs The employee can observe him or herself by completing a diary or log, recording exactly what is being done at periodic intervals during the day. In addition to the obvious interruption of work, other issues associated with this method are that the employee might often forget to record activities and might indicate what he or she thinks should be done as opposed to exactly what is being done.
  • Interviews The job analyst can interview the employee inquiring as exactly what activities are engaged and what knowledge, skills, and abilities are required. To cover all aspects of the job and provide a basis for analysis, good practice is to develop a standardized and structured interview protocol that is used in all interviews. Interviews provide in-depth information and might be appropriate when there are only a few persons occupying the job or when the data can be used to develop a survey instrument to be given to a larger number of employees. The disadvantage of using interviews is that they are very staff-intensive and can be costly.
  • Questionnaires and checklists Surveys can be developed and given to a large number of employees. This is an efficient way of gathering data when a large number of individuals occupy the same job and when the employees are widely dispersed geographically. In addition, data gathered in this method can often be statistically analyzed.
  • However, questionnaires are only as good as the questions they ask. Poorly developed questionnaires do not yield the data required to accurately prepare job descriptions and specifications. In addition, some employees might not have the literacy skills to properly complete the questionnaire, and others might purposefully answer the questions inaccurately. There are numerous off-the-shelf questionnaires and checklists that can be purchased from vendors or that are available from governmental agencies. Some of the more frequently used ones are

    • Position analysis questionnaire This is a specialized checklist, usually referred to as PAQ, which analyzes the job in six dimensions based on responses to nearly 200 questions. It can be used both for job analysis and job evaluation (discussed in Chapter 5). The dimensions analyzed are
      • Information input
      • Mental processes
      • Work output
      • Relationships with other persons
      • Job context
      • Other job characteristics
    • Function job analysis Referred to as FJA, this is a comprehensive approach to job analysis that incorporates the goals of the organization, what workers do to achieve those goals, level and orientation of what the workers do, performance standards, and training content. The FJA evaluates the function of the job in three classifications: data, people, and things.
    • Management position description questionnaire This instrument is similar to the PAQ, but has been developed specifically to describe managerial jobs.
    • O*Net Online This is a resource provided by the Department of Labor, which is available on the Internet at http://www.onetcenter.org/. It is a huge database, providing standardized job descriptions for a large number of jobs and incorporates the DOL’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles.
  • Computer-based systems A huge number of computer-based job analysis systems can be obtained from a variety of vendors. These systems frequently contain large databases of descriptive statements that can be used to describe various tasks, based on responses to questions. These systems can often dramatically decrease the time required for job analysis and can facilitate decentralization of the process to management.
  • Multiple methods It is often good practice to use multiple methods of data collection. For example, interviews can often be used to develop a basic understanding of the job under evaluation and can be used to develop a questionnaire used to capture data from many employees. The data can then be analyzed and entered into another system prior to developing the job descriptions and job specifications. This often provides a deeper understanding of the job and more defensible job description and job specifications should either be an issue in a complaint process being heard before a third party.

Writing Job Descriptions and Job Specifications

Job descriptions are written documents that describe the functions and working conditions of a job. Job specifications are the human characteristics necessary to successfully perform the job. Job specifications are typically a subsection of a job description. In general, federal law does not require job descriptions. One exception is employees that handle or dispose of certain types of hazardous chemicals. However, job descriptions are desirable for a number of reasons:

  • They assist employers in complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Labor Standards Act as discussed earlier.
  • They assist in compliance with antidiscrimination laws that require employment practices and decisions be job-related as they define the job.
  • They assign work and document work assignments.
  • They help clarify the mission through the types of work assigned.
  • They provide the basis for developing training and performance evaluation programs.

Job descriptions should use action verbs to specifically describe the essential functions and duties. These descriptions should be logical, concise, and specific as to exactly what is to be done by the employee. A simple format for a job description and job specifications is shown in Table 3.5. It contains the following components, which are typically included in job descriptions:

  • Identification section This section provides general information regarding the job including the job title, where the position is located in terms of geography, the department in which the job is located, whether the job is exempt or nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the pay grade of classification of the job, the EEOC classification required for the EEO-1 report, and whether the job is included in the bargaining unit (a concept discussed in Chapter 6). In addition, this section often includes a job code or other identifying number used for identification in the human resource information system (HRIS). The HRIS might permit or require the entry of skill codes that identify the type of skills used in the job. If so, those codes are often placed in the identification section. Finally, the section might include information regarding the name of the individual that wrote the job description and job specifications and the name of the manager that approved them. The amount of information placed in this section depends on the needs of the organization and might range from merely identifying the job to a rather extensive section with large amounts of identifying information.
  • Position summary This section is a concise statement indicating what the job does, why it exists, and what makes it different from other jobs. The statement is generally only one or two sentences.
  • Essential functions This section is the meat of the job description and specifies clearly what the major functions of the job are. This is the most important section of the job description and the most difficult and time-consuming to write.
  • Nonessential functions This section lists other duties of the job that are minor in nature. For the purposes of the ADA, these are the duties that could potentially be assigned elsewhere in the organization as a reasonable accommodation.
  • Job specifications As previously stated, job specifications are normally included within the job description. This section should list the knowledge, skills, and abilities that a job incumbent should possess to perform the job successfully. Such characteristics as experience, education, and physical abilities are included in this section if they are requirements of the job. For example, "B.S. degree in biology," "two years of directly related experience," and "able to lift 100 pounds above the shoulders" are examples of explanatory statements that might be used in this section.
  • Working conditions This section describes the environment in which the work is performed. Such issues as exposure to weather, fumes, heat or cold, noise, and so forth should be described in this section. If the job is not performed in a difficult environment, the conditions under which the work is performed should still be described. For example, "the work is performed in an office environment with no disagreeable conditions" might be appropriate in those situations.
  • Disclaimers Many organizations put a variety of disclaimers in this section. These statements often include information that the management reserves the right to change the nature of the job and that the job description does not describe all tasks and responsibilities of the job. The purpose of these statements is to clarify that the employee might be required by management to perform other tasks. Often employers include this concept in a statement under the functions section using the terminology "other duties as assigned." However, the courts find this a bit problematic, especially if placed in the essential functions section, because the essential functions have to be clearly defined. A disclaimer section at the end of the job description is preferable. A final disclaimer often used is a statement to the effect that the job description does not constitute a contract for employment and may be changed at the discretion of the employer.

Table 3.5 Sample Job Description Format

Position Title:

Job Code:


FLSA Status:


Bargaining Unit Status:

Reports To:

Skill Codes:

Pay Grade:

EEOC Class:

Position Summary

Essential Functions






Nonessential Functions






Job Specifications




Working Conditions


Competencies and the Future of Job Analysis

Job analysis, job specifications, and job descriptions meet the needs of organizations experiencing stable environments and stable markets. The process allows the organization to describe its jobs in relation to its mission and specify exactly what tasks must be performed to facilitate achievement of organizational goals. These processes are recognized by the court systems, which provide guidance through case law as to the characteristics of legally defensible activities. However, more and more frequently organizations are affected by a dynamic and volatile environment with rapidly changing technology, increased competition, and fluctuating customer demands. This has led to the "dejobbing of America."

Dejobbing refers to the fact that jobs often change every day and cannot be specifically described in the traditional ways. Increased competition has often resulted in a flattening of the traditional hierarchy, removing multiple layers of management. When this occurs, employees at the bottom of the organization often are required to manage themselves and are empowered to make decisions. To be quickly adaptive to the market and customer wants, employees must be able to make instantaneous decisions and engage in a variety of new and innovative behaviors. The nature of work has often become one of teams, projects, and task forces, requiring new skills and ever-changing job responsibilities.

Many organizations engage in the practice of enriching jobs by increasing the skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback. This practice makes the jobs more flexible and increases responsibilities for planning and decision-making. High-performance work systems and employee involvement programs provide for more employee input into their jobs and more flexibility as to how jobs are performed. To deal with these new dynamics, many organizations are beginning the transition or have already transitioned to using competencies rather than tasks, duties, and responsibilities. Rather than task-based, job analysis has become competency-based. Competencies and competency-based job analysis are discussed in the sections that follow.


Competencies are personal or organizational capabilities that are linked to successful performance outcomes. For the individual, competencies can be defined as characteristics of the person that enable performance. Competencies also consider how the knowledge, skills, and abilities are used. No single definition of competency has emerged as the standard because this is a relatively new area of study and practice. However, competencies include knowledge, skills, and abilities but are more than that. There is a component of behavior, performance outcomes, motivation, and attitude included in the concept. Many organizations believe that the use of competencies is a more strategic approach and better aligns employee behavior with the organization’s mission and values than do description of tasks and functions.

Competencies can be categorized as technical, general, and leadership. Technical competencies apply to the particular job being analyzed. General (also called behavioral) competencies are required in varying amounts throughout the workforce. Leadership competencies are required by supervisors, managers, and others that have leadership responsibilities. Table 3.6 provides some commonly used competencies.

Table 3.6 Competencies

Developing subordinates

Resolving conflicts

Focusing on customer satisfaction

Working creatively

Communicating effectively

Leading decisively

Working with others



Understanding technology

Competency-based analysis follows essentially the same process as described previously, but its purpose is to determine competencies needed to successfully perform the job rather than the functions performed in the job. There is a difference in emphasis between the two processes: Traditional or task-based job analysis focuses on the job and what is actually being done, whereas competency-based analysis focuses on the person and how the job outcomes are to be accomplished.

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