I find that many employers do not have an up-to-date understanding of some of the real job requirements in their businesses. There is a strong reliance on the job description as the measure of productivity but an absence of the understanding that jobs are more organic that they used to be in a fast changing economic climate. Employees are more often than not required to think on their feet and do that little bit extra to ensure that the job gets done. Job execution is now more of a feature of on-going trouble-shooting, system adjustments, and even fire-fighting to remain ahead in the very dynamic competitive game.

Productive efficiencies and employee morale can be seriously eroded when employer expectations do not match the needs of job execution. This has implications for broad-based job analyses so that businesses have a real time appreciation of what it takes to remain competitive and what employees are actually being asked to do. New acquisitions, diversifying, attrition, or sometimes a simple move to a new space may warrant some re-structuring. This brings the possibility that the current situation may now require new inputs and methodologies. The job analysis bares gaps in expectations and resource allocation for early intervention to improve efficiencies.

 A job analysis documents the requirements of a job and the work to be performed. It is a developmental instrument that encompasses the job definition and description, measures for performance appraisals, selection systems, promotion criteria, training needs, and compensation plans. Job analyses should be revisited every few years to remain relevant. Keeping the job requirements current would require an employer to actively seek employee input that will inform the systems and practices adopted. This makes the practice an important feature in risk reduction.

My preferred method of information gathering for analysis is the worker interview in a standardized format, which would provide subjective information from workers about standard and non-standard aspects of the job, as well as a range of regular worker inputs that may be outside of the standard but perhaps need be included. The requirements of a job are constantly evolving in a dynamic economic environment, and very often these activities are not legitimized. This can play havoc with established management structures and lead to conflicts and employee dissatisfaction.

Because the information provided will be subjective, and interviewer’s questions could be misunderstood, there is the possibility of distortion to the analysis. Selecting experienced and knowledgeable workers and trained interviewers could mitigate some of the potential bias. But sometimes new employees see things with fresh eyes and have much to offer. Unskilled workers who operate at the tail-end of productive processes can also bring some meaningful insights to bear on improving those processes. I find this aspect of the job analysis crucial so that systems remain grounded in the reality of the job both ideal and actual. Interviewing several workers engaged in the same activities will allow the analysis to abstract and categorize the information based on similarity of responses. This cumulative dimension will give greater stability to the results.

To further insert objectivity into the analysis, I often combine interviews with a web-based structured questionnaire. This would tend to remove possible interview ambiguities, and allow for a wider coverage of participants at a lower marginal cost, with less work disruption. It would also facilitate quicker analysis and feedback. Using company intranets for web-based analyses would afford easy access to the final product across the board. But for small businesses without intranet facilities, an e-mail questionnaire will suffice.

The face-to-face process of the interview will lend credibility to the information which could then be used as a baseline measure in the structuring of the questionnaire. The disadvantage of questionnaires is that they are time consuming and expensive to develop, and the impersonal approach may be a demotivating factor for respondents. But the utility and reach of questionnaires, their long term application, and cost savings in administering them would outweigh such concerns.

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Merlin Hernandez is an entrepreneurial development and management consultant who operates mainly in the small and medium enterprise sector. For more information on this and other topics, please send enquiries to businesssolutions1168@gmail.com